June 17, 2009 performance, reviewed by Frances Benn Hall
Seven years ago, in the limited playing area of Shakespeare and Co’s small drawing-room theatre, three talented theatre artists—playwright William Gibson, director Daniel Gidron, and actor Annette Miller, created what as reviewer I described as “miracle” in the world premier of Golda’s Balcony. (Read review of May 8, 2002 opening performance.) Strong language for a ninety-five minute play; but two weeks later when I returned to see it again, the miracle was still there.
It is thus a joy to report that the miracle is again to be seen in its original form on the Bernstein Stage at Shakespeare and Company.
Annette Miller steps into Golda’s kutzy shoes—all the ‘realism” she needs to become the character. On stage is a desk, a lectern, a map and an easy chair area, and we are with her in Israel in 1973 on a night in which our own world, no matter who we are, could have possibly changed forever.
For Golda has two balconies, the one outside her apartment that overlooks the sea, and a second balcony, underground from which she can look down upon the one fatal rocket that she could launch, if the phone on the desk does not finally produce Henry Kissinger’s voice with the promise that America will immediately send replacements for the planes and other war gear already destroyed by Egypt and Syria. Knowing she was altering the world forever, with a bomb on which was written, “Never again.”
The time of the acting takes in the 95 minutes of Golda’s waiting. It is, between attempts to rouse Washington, filled with un-chronological memories—of her childhood as a Jewish child in Russia, of the girlhood in Milwaukee from which she launched her first trip to Israel, to her failed marriage as she tries to save children dying on Cyprus and cosset her own children as well. With setbacks and victories. With Israel’s statehood in 1948. With begging for money and help. And finally in 1973 with war planes overhead.
Miller’s acting is absolutely marvelous—vocally she can be strong, decisive, blatant, or rueful and gentle as holding an enormous (invisible) pink lampshade—so impossibly wrong for their humble home, bought and brought by the husband who means so well but cannot understand why she struggles for Israel as she is driven to do, high-lights the personal sacrifices she has been forced to make.
Other characters in her past (family and political) are evoked and slide in an out of her memories. When she pulled a bunchy white paper flower from a desk drawer, I remembered what was coming and relived with her the Cyprus child who had given it to her “because we don’t have real ones.” One of the thousands she fought to save, one of the victories. Because her life was a see-saw of misfortune and triumph. And seeing the play in 2009, the current unrest in the middle-East has special resonance.
As Golda concludes, “I don’t know the answer, but seveny five years ago my father nailed up boards across the door to keep out the pogrom, and after seventy five years, we come from that place to this place here where we can live … with all people including our neighbors, including our neighbors, including our neighbors…”
The curtain call was, appropriately, a standing ovation.
See also: 2002 interview with William Gibson.