Saturday, April 12, 2008

Golda's Balcony

Dorothy Silver is mesmerizing on ‘GOLDA’S BALCONY’ at ACTORS’ SUMMIT

Dorothy Silver is the first lady of Cleveland theatre. Golda Meir was the first lady of Israeli politics. The two grand dames are gloriously coming together on the Actors’ Summit stage in ‘GOLDA’S BALCONY.’

‘GOLDA'S BALCONY,’ the one-woman show which was written by William Gibson, ran for play 493 performances on Broadway.

It is an album of a seemingly fearless woman who was Israel’s first female Prime Minister. She was in office when Egyptian troops stormed across the Suez Canal and Syria’s army drove down from the Golan Heights into Israel on Yom Kipper Day, October 6, 1973. The action overwhelmed the Israeli army. Much of the success of the Israelis during that conflict is credited to the almost superhuman efforts of Meir. Her perseverance saved the Israelis from being “driven into the sea.”

From the play’s first line, “I am at the end of my stories,” until the last line when she actually is at the end of her stories, we are immersed in Zionist history and Meir’s personal life and observations. We experience a failed marriage because of her need to be a leader rather than a wife and mother. We observe her struggles and frustrations with the Israeli generals. We want to get up, grab the phone out of her hand and plead with Henry Kissinger, the US Secretary of State, and then-President Richard Nixon, to send help to Israel. Send help or be responsible for the destruction of the country.

Not all is serious. Meir’s sense of humor and ability to laugh at herself lighten up the tale. When Kissinger tells her that he is “first an American, second, the Secretary of State, and third, Jewish,” Meir responds, “That’s fine. We [the Israelis] read from right to left.”

Several years ago Valerie Harper came to Cleveland in a tour production of the play to portray Golda. I commented that Ms. Harper lacked the “tam” (the rich taste, the touch, the soul) of Meir. She acted the role, she didn’t experience the person. This is absolutely not the case with Dorothy Silver.

Silver is mesmerizing. She does not imitate Meir. There is no prosthetic nose, no cigarette smoking, no attempt to recreate Meir’s manly voice. Silver takes the words, makes them her own, and gives a clear picture of the “grandma” of Israel, with all her foibles. And, she does it all masterfully. Her Golda is always focused and riveting--a characterization totally complete.

The use of real pictures of Meir and the people and places that populate her life have been painstakingly culled by co-director A. Neil Thackaberry. The production was supposed to be directed by Reuben Silver, Dorothy’s talented husband. When Reuben became ill, he and Thackaberry become joint directors. Reuben worked with Dorothy at home, Neil with her at the theatre. The outcome is totally satisfying.

CAPSULE JUDGEMENT: ‘GOLDA’S BALCONY’ is an absolutely must see production. The show has no intermission and is 95 minutes. Plan to stay for the fascinating talk back with Silver and Thackaberry following each performance.