We had the opportunity to see Golda’s Balcony, the one woman play portraying the life and career of Golda Meir, and starring Tovah Feldshuh, who originally played Golda on Broadway ten years ago.
There is no question but that Feldshuh is a fine actor and that she plays Golda energetically and well. The 90 minute one-act performance is structured with Golda reminiscing about her career and personal life, moving from the present to the past, from the public Golda to the private Golda. You get an idea of this young girl from Kiev relocated first to Milwaukee, then to Denver, then to Palestine, along with her Zionist ideals and her reluctant husband. You see how she became involved in the movement to liberate Palestine from British rule and create a Jewish state and the role she played throughout this period, even before she became Prime Minister. And you see, most importantly, the crisis precipitated by the Yom Kippur War, when American aid was delayed, and the potential destruction of the state loomed.
Yet, with all this, I had the feeling I was watching Feldshuh and not Meir. There was something missing, and I am not sure exactly what it was. It may be that verisimilitude in this sort of a performance is too much to act; I accept that. But would Gold Meir really sat down and told about her life in this way, mixing a little sophomoric humor and sly asides with her description of the potential destruction of the State of Israel. I am not sure.
On the other hand, this is not ancient history, and in 2003 (and today) many are around who knew Meir well, who interacted with her in a number of personal and public settings. Surely, Feldshuh’s rendition of Golda was vetted with a number of these witnesses. So perhaps what is missing is not on the stage at all, but just in my unlearned conception of what Golda Meir was really about.