Florida Studio Theatre rises to the challenge of this one-person show.
By Kay Kipling
The challenges of a one-person show are obvious, and the challenges of portraying someone as distinctive looking and sounding as former Israeli Prime Minister Golda Meir are clear as well. It’s good to know a local theater company rises to those challenges.
The William Gibson play, a showcase for actress Tovah Feldshuh on Broadway and off, here provides Kate Alexander a chance to stretch her acting muscles. And while, despite makeup, padding and costuming efforts, she still looks very little like Golda Meir, she does succeed in involving us with Meir’s passion and drive for the cause of Israel.
That cause, it’s clear at the outset of the play, is in grave danger. We first see Meir in a moment of crisis, as the Yom Kippur war of 1973 threatens Israel’s existence. Will promised help from the United States arrive in time? As we see Meir wheedling and then demanding the assistance her country needs, we also are warned early on that she is not necessarily the kindly chicken-soup-making grandmother her image suggests. Yes, she tells us, she makes chicken soup, “but at the bottom of the pot is blood.”
Meeting with her ministers (Alexander provides their voices as well as those of other characters in the 90-minute piece, performed without intermission), Meir eventually arrives at a drastic decision: to inform the United States that Israel has nuclear weapons, and is prepared to use them if need be. That decision, harrowing as it is, is made more plausible as she takes us back and forth in time, from her early days during the pogroms of Kiev to her radicalism as a girl in Milwaukee to her arrival in Palestine with her husband and two children, whom, Meir admits, all suffered at times from her overwhelming dedication to find a home for the Jews.
Those looks back in history are frequently fascinating, for those who are familiar with what led to the formation of Israel as a state and especially for those who may not be. And Gibson’s play is often powerful and moving in its depiction of Meir’s struggle for the Jewish people.
Working against a set that projects images of people and places in Golda’s story (along with omnipresent clocks indicating time ticking away), Alexander is compelling, even though at the beginning her delivery may seem hurried. She becomes more effective throughout the evening, as we see the toll Meir’s life decisions take on her. There are some welcome flashes of humor here and there in Golda’s Balcony, although the ending leaves audiences aware that, in the 33 years since the Yom Kippur war, there’s been little enough progress made in solving the problem of, as Meir puts it, “two peoples and one piece of land.”
Golda’s Balcony runs on the FST mainstage through Feb. 2. Go to www.fst2000.org or call 366-9000 for ticket information.