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Hawkish Israeli stateswoman makes funny, too

Golda's Balcony at New Village Arts

Rosina Reynolds
Rosina Reynolds

Worlds collide in Golda’s Balcony. Golda Mabovitch (Myerson), the young idealist from Milwaukee who dreams of a Jewish homeland, wrestles with Golda Meir, the hawkish Israeli stateswoman she becomes. The communal peace of the kibbutz butts against the nuclear arsenal Meir knows she must use to protect the homeland. The sons and daughters of Isaac and Ishmael — cousins in blood and history — still collide.

Golda's Balcony

Golda’s two balconies are actual precipices upon which the fourth Israeli prime minister once stood. They are not physical structures in the play, but thematic conflicting forces that defined her life and reign. The view of the Mediterranean Sea from her home in Tel Aviv symbolizes hope and homecoming; from the other, she oversaw the creation of Israel’s nuclear weapons facility in a barren desert landscape.

“What happens when idealism becomes power?” Meir asks, facing the audience. Playwright William Gibson offers no direct answer in the 90-minute telling of Meir’s life. Instead, he exposes the moral undercurrent of a woman marred in conflict so we may answer for ourselves.

The stage design connotes the desolation of war. One long, seemingly endless wooden table fills most of the stage. A single black rotary phone, ashtray, and a handful of everyday desk chairs dress the scene. Steel-gray panels frame the set. Even the pale-olive polyester skirt and sweater Meir wears reflect utility.

There is one deviation to the sterile tableaux. A vibrant sea of turquoise runs from end to end through the pine-colored table. This symbol of life’s source — or the river Jordan — disrupts the status quo and suggests a symbol of life’s source, like the complex human it represents.

Rosina Reynolds exudes passion and practicality as Golda. When the play begins, she sits atop a box in front of a mirror, exchanges a stylish red wig for a graying bun, and waits as the audience settles. At moments she makes us laugh: “How does a housewife decide between generals?” The Yom Kippur War of 1973 exposed the internal conflicts of her cabinet and her own moral fiber.

Gibson weaves past with present throughout the script. Munitions and air-strikes replace youthful dreams of a free and peaceful Jewish homeland. Reynolds oscillates between Meir’s girlish wonderment and mature resolve with the charm of a master storyteller. When she threatens nuclear war if Kissinger does not send those “damn Phantoms” (fighter jets) he promised, Meir’s passion comes to life.

Hope resonates through Reynolds’s measured delivery when she speaks of Russian immigrants who “out” themselves as Jews in her presence. Pain emerges from her cracking voice as she tells of refugees who hid from Nazis or face certain death.

Reynolds’s performance, like Gibson’s script, exposes the current of human emotion masked by hard choices. At the core is hope for peace despite conflict. As Meir tells us, “Shalom, salaam…there is so narrow a difference in how we say peace.”

Playing through June 26

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Rosina Reynolds
Rosina Reynolds

Worlds collide in Golda’s Balcony. Golda Mabovitch (Myerson), the young idealist from Milwaukee who dreams of a Jewish homeland, wrestles with Golda Meir, the hawkish Israeli stateswoman she becomes. The communal peace of the kibbutz butts against the nuclear arsenal Meir knows she must use to protect the homeland. The sons and daughters of Isaac and Ishmael — cousins in blood and history — still collide.

Golda's Balcony

Golda’s two balconies are actual precipices upon which the fourth Israeli prime minister once stood. They are not physical structures in the play, but thematic conflicting forces that defined her life and reign. The view of the Mediterranean Sea from her home in Tel Aviv symbolizes hope and homecoming; from the other, she oversaw the creation of Israel’s nuclear weapons facility in a barren desert landscape.

“What happens when idealism becomes power?” Meir asks, facing the audience. Playwright William Gibson offers no direct answer in the 90-minute telling of Meir’s life. Instead, he exposes the moral undercurrent of a woman marred in conflict so we may answer for ourselves.

The stage design connotes the desolation of war. One long, seemingly endless wooden table fills most of the stage. A single black rotary phone, ashtray, and a handful of everyday desk chairs dress the scene. Steel-gray panels frame the set. Even the pale-olive polyester skirt and sweater Meir wears reflect utility.

There is one deviation to the sterile tableaux. A vibrant sea of turquoise runs from end to end through the pine-colored table. This symbol of life’s source — or the river Jordan — disrupts the status quo and suggests a symbol of life’s source, like the complex human it represents.

Rosina Reynolds exudes passion and practicality as Golda. When the play begins, she sits atop a box in front of a mirror, exchanges a stylish red wig for a graying bun, and waits as the audience settles. At moments she makes us laugh: “How does a housewife decide between generals?” The Yom Kippur War of 1973 exposed the internal conflicts of her cabinet and her own moral fiber.

Gibson weaves past with present throughout the script. Munitions and air-strikes replace youthful dreams of a free and peaceful Jewish homeland. Reynolds oscillates between Meir’s girlish wonderment and mature resolve with the charm of a master storyteller. When she threatens nuclear war if Kissinger does not send those “damn Phantoms” (fighter jets) he promised, Meir’s passion comes to life.

Hope resonates through Reynolds’s measured delivery when she speaks of Russian immigrants who “out” themselves as Jews in her presence. Pain emerges from her cracking voice as she tells of refugees who hid from Nazis or face certain death.

Reynolds’s performance, like Gibson’s script, exposes the current of human emotion masked by hard choices. At the core is hope for peace despite conflict. As Meir tells us, “Shalom, salaam…there is so narrow a difference in how we say peace.”

Playing through June 26

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