Presented by New Rep Theatre
By William Gibson
Directed by Judy Braha
March 25-April 16, 2017
Mainstage Theatre at the Mosesian Arts Center for the Arts
321 Arsenal Street
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Review by Polly Goss
(Watertown, MA) Golda’s Balcony tells the story of Israel’s creation through the eyes of one of its most influential authors, Golda Meir – the state’s first and only female Prime Minister. The play follows Golda from her idealistic youth standing on soapboxes in Milwaukee preaching Zionism, up until one fateful night in the Yom Kippur War in 1973.
Bobbie Steinbach (Golda) brings incredible energy, warmth and depth to this complicated woman. The audience watch riveted as Golda transforms from an idealistic young woman trying to save the world, to a tyrannous leader prepared to destroy it. Gibson’s script provides a very one-sided but detailed history of Israel in the 20th century. Steinbach is masterful in her storytelling as she brings to life Meir’s memory of the important people not only in her own story, but also in Israel’s. Her comic re-enactment of some of her family members infuses the script with much needed moments of light relief. JiYoung Han’s set design, shoes littered across the bottom of the stage, is a powerful reminder of the Holocaust. The sets serves as a visual metaphor for the violence that underpins Israel’s, and Golda’s, story.
The New Rep originally intended the play to be performed once Hillary Clinton had been elected President (oh dear), seeing a mirror between the two countries and their first female presidents. Whilst Golda Meir is undoubtedly an intriguing political figure, her status as a female role model is questionable. Whether Golda’s Balcony’s one-sided narrative highlights the uncompromising nature of Zionism; or whether it is a celebration of Golda’s role in establishing the state of Israel, depends entirely on audience interpretation.
Golda’s Balcony is not a play I would ever expect to see anywhere outside of the US or Israel, as its one -sided nature would be offensive to many people across the world. I think as a British person unused to hearing pro-Israel rhetoric, I found the play particularly shocking.
The New Rep have certainly put on a compelling show and am sure they will continue to challenge their audiences by putting on thought-provoking and controversial theatre. I hope Golda’s Balcony sparks a conversation around the Israel-Palestine conflict. Steinbach performs Golda Meir with absolute conviction and without apology; the audience is left to judge for themselves, whether Golda’s Balcony humanizes a monster – or a hero.
Golda’s Balcony runs in the beautiful Mosesian Arts center until April 16 and tickets can be purchased by calling the New Rep box office at 617 923 8487, or by visiting newrep.org.
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