William Gibson's Golda's Balcony is a portrait of the dauntless champion of the State of Israel, Prime Minister Golda Meir. Meir was beloved by her people and respected the world over. Her committment and personal sacrifice were considerable, and this play extends her legacy of inspiration to a new generation.
Played by Valerie Harper, Meir at age 75 looks back on her life, addressing the audience directly as well as acting out recalled situations and conversations with family members and colleagues. It is a compelling slice of history, and Harper is dedicated to showing us the essence of this legendary figure.
The setting is 1973 during the Yom Kippur War when Meir was faced with the decision to launch a nuclear pre-emptive strike. Her repeated attempts to contact U.S. Secretary of Stage Henry Kissinger, desperately seeking help, continue throughout the play, and while she waits, we hear of her life - from Russia to Wisconsin to Tel Aviv. Gibson weaves a rich fabric of passion, love and commitment. There is a clarity and simplicity in the story that make it accessible as well as educational for those unfamiliar with Meir's place in history.
Harper is not totally unrecognizable through costume, padding and makeup, but a strong resemblance is struck effectively. Through comportment and accent, Harper completes the shift into character. There is great warmth and humor in the piece, and the amount of storytelling that is accomplished in 95 minutes is amazing.
Set Designer Anna Louizos provides a naturalistic stone and wood set; with a few props and projections of photos (and effective light design by Jeff Croiter), it is all that is needed to provide settings for the chapters of Meir's life.
Golda's Balcony continutes through May 7 at the Byham Theatre. or schedule and ticket information, visit www.pgharts.org/.