Captivating Golda’s Balcony Shines at 2nd Story
Without a doubt, Sandra Laub brilliantly meets the challenges of bringing the complex, compelling, idealistic Golda to life in 2nd Story's impressive and memorable production.by Veronica Bruscini, Broadway World
The contrasting views from two very different balconies framed the state of the nation for Israeli Prime Minister Golda Meir.
From one, a balcony attached to a flat she shared with her children, Meir saw the realization of a dream 2,000 years in the making and the paramount goal of her own life’s work: great ships from ports around the world sailing the Mediterranean Sea, bearing the Jewish diaspora home to the newly-formed state of Israel. The other – nicknamed “Golda’s Balcony” – was a platform overlooking an underground nuclear bunker in Dimona. From this observation deck, Meir oversaw a secret cache of nuclear warheads that would protect her people and the still-young nation from the very real threat of annihilation by foreign invaders.
Meir’s life story and the fascinating history of Israel’s nation-building provide rich, riveting material in William Gibson’s award-winning Golda’s Balcony, but as a one-woman performance, the success of this play rests squarely on the actress chosen to portray “Goldie.” Without a doubt, Sandra Laub brilliantly meets the challenges of bringing the complex, compelling, idealistic Golda to life in 2nd Story’s impressive and memorable production.
Laub ably maintains a fine emotional tension in her portrayal, well evoking the struggle between the fiery idealism that defined Meir’s worldview and the weighty, somber responsibilities inherent in leadership and power. Golda’s Balcony centers on the 1973 Yom Kippur War, a defining moment both in Israel’s history and in Meir’s political career. This crucial conflict – which easily could have ended in disaster for the fledgling nation – acts as a focus point for the narrative and also provides connective threads to examine Meir’s personal story from her youth to old age.
From her very first moments on stage, Laub is captivating, personable, and an entirely engaging storyteller. Golda’s Balcony opens with Meir at the close of her life, aged and weakened by illness. Laub nuances her portrayal to accommodate these physical restrictions, gingerly moving through the staging and believably aging her vocal performance, while letting glimpses of Golda’s playfulness and determination bleed through. Then as Meir’s reminiscences gain fervor and momentum, Laub subtly allows the years to melt away, gradually restoring her character to full strength and vigor as she recalls her experiences and aspirations.
She presents Meir with a charming matter-of-fact quality, blending self-depreciating humor, iron-willed composure, and keenly-felt sorrow into her performance. Meir’s utter determination and common sense are clear from the start, but so too are her personal worries and internal conflicts. Laub’s more introspective moments – Meir regretfully musing on her absence during her children’s upbringing, for instance – are seamlessly melded with crushing grief over the death of Israeli soldiers and the still-burning outrage over the horrors of the Holocaust. She makes Meir’s arguments for both the defense of the Jewish State as the “Third Temple” and the desire for peace between Israel and her Arab neighbors especially compelling moments in the account.
Laub maintains outstanding energy and enthusiasm for the entire 90-minute production and she creates a perceptible connection with her audience. She also brings any number of other characters to life through imitation and parody, including a spot-on impression of Henry Kissinger.
The courtroom of the historic Bristol Statehouse provides an elegant and fitting setting for Golda’s Balcony. With minimal props and set pieces, the space transitions from the cramped Meir home to Golda’s overflowing office to the Israeli war room at the height of the Yom Kippur conflict. This production also includes a number of photographs, showcasing real-life portraits of Meir, her family, her allies, and her enemies, and the far wall of the courtroom works ideally as an impromptu projection screen for these images. Supplemental maps and documents are also projected to give the audience a concrete sense of place and immediacy. In one particularly chilling scene, while Laub stresses the utter necessity of the survival of the Jewish state and bitterly calls out the names of the Nazi death camps, the titles appear starkly on the wall behind her, mimicking an engraved, permanent memorial to the millions lost in the Holocaust.