2nd Story Theatre’s “Golda’s Balcony” Is a Splendid Piece of Theater

Nov 21, 2013

Sandra Laub as Golda Meir in William Gibson’s one-woman tour de force "Golda's Balcony."
Credit Richard W. Dionne, Jr. / 2nd Story Theatre

Yes, indeed. There are lots of reasons why this production is a splendid piece of theater. First and foremost is Sandra Laub, the actress playing the one-time prime minister of Israel, Golda Meir.

Most theater people, especially actors, will tell you that doing a one-woman or one-man show is the most difficult of assignments.  After all, it is just one soul out there, alone. It’s a matter of getting the audience to fall for you, and there’s nobody to help out. You, and you alone, must keep the play’s pulse moving, must make the character live.

Ms. Laub handles all of this with practiced strength and clear emotional belief.

She believes in what Golda Meir believed in and it shows in every second of this 90-minute play by William Gibson, best known for “The Miracle Worker.”

“Golda’s Balcony,” first appeared in 2003. It was a result of playwright Gibson re- doing an earlier, much bigger, and much clumsier version that flopped on Broadway despite having Anne Bancroft as Meir.

In the 2003 edition the playwright reduced the cast from 12 actors to just one, a stroke of near-genius. This version follows Golda Meir from her native Kiev, Russia to, of all places, Milwaukee, Wisconsin where her immigrant father found work.

The play then watches the incredibly talented and hardworking Meir move from being a housewife and mother to, arguably, the most powerful female of her time.

Her husband, and to an extent, her children, are left in the dust as she raises huge amounts of money for the aborning nation of Israel. Does her new country need more aid from the United States? Let me go, Golda tells the Israeli leadership. “I speak American!”

Throughout this 90-minute biographical work Sandra Laub is superb in creating not only a character but a time and place. She’s a big woman who can at one  moment show bravado and huge drive. In the next, she portrays emotional need, interior hope and fear at once. When Laub as Meir talks of “the State of Israel” her eyes shine, he body seems to rise without effort.

When she relates leaving her husband for a much more public life, including “powerful, exciting men,” she seems to shrink at the necessity to move on. “I have a mind of my own,” she says.

This superb performance has obviously been aided greatly by pulsating direction from Bryna Wortman, a URI theater professor.  She uses the whole of the large room at 2nd Story’s number three performing place in the Bristol Statehouse. The result is a Golda Meir with all the movement and drive you would expect from a prime minister.

True enough I, and I think some other audience members, would have welcomed a brief intermission to rise from those tucked in courthouse seats. But that’s just a quibble.

“Golda’s Balcony” is a play of consequence with a performance of grace and power. It’s first-rate theater.

Want To Go?

“Golda’s Balcony” continues at the Bristol Statehouse through December 8th.