BWW Review: GOLDA'S BALCONY at Triangle Productions: Read Your History Before You Go
One-woman shows are some of my favorites at Triangle Productions. I love the company's focus on telling the stories of fascinating women, and I'm always impressed by the immense talent it requires to capture and hold an audience's attention for an entire evening.
The current one-woman show up for offer is William Gibson's GOLDA'S BALCONY, a portrait of Golda Meir, who immigrated from Russia to Milwaukee and then to Palestine to establish a Jewish nation. She went on to become the fourth Prime Minister of Israel. In the role of Meir is Wendy Westerwelle, a Portland stage veteran last seen at Triangle last season in the fantastic one-woman show Becoming Dr. Ruth.
GOLDA'S BALCONY jumps back and forth in time, from Meir as an older woman reflecting on her life to 1973 during the Yom Kippur War. If you're unfamiliar with this highly charged time in history, I highly recommend you brush up on it before you go. You'll undoubtedly enjoy it more if you don't have to spend quite so much time trying to figure out who's who and what's what.
As a very brief intro, the Yom Kippur War (aka the Arab-Israeli War) took place in October 1973, when Egypt and Syria launched a surprise attack on Israel. In the play, Meir threatens to use nuclear weapons unless the United States comes to Israel's aid. The show focuses on Meir's inner conflicts about the decisions she must make, revolving around the central question "What happens when idealism becomes power?"
The staging of Triangle's production is sparse -- two sets of tables and chairs: one on the left, where Meir reflects about her children, her path to Zionism, and other aspects of her life, and one on the right, where she manages the war effort. It puts all of the responsibility for the show on the shoulders of the actor.
Golda Meir was a no-nonsense woman, known as Israel's Iron Lady. Westerwelle's portrayal is exactly that -- passionate, dominant, determined. The performance was moving, though rushed. The play was advertised as being about 90 minutes. We were in, out, and in the car in under 75. A less frantic pace might have helped out those of us unfamiliar with the history, while also giving Westerwelle and the audience a better opportunity to explore the conflicts Meir faced throughout her life.
Overall, GOLDA'S BALCONY provides a fascinating look at a turbulent point in world history, one that quite possibly could have been the start of World War III. It's important to see shows like this so we can understand the decision-making process of those in positions of power.
GOLDA'S BALCONY runs through April 1. More info and tickets here.