Random clusters occur in theater, just like they do everywhere else. September turned out to be one of those periods when we got great theater after great theater here in town. We seem to have another one going on now: Political theater. Golda’s Balcony, now at the New Jewish Theatre, is such a play, this in a period when we have Until the Flood at the Rep and Every 28 Hours returning for one more performance October 24.
Golda is Golda Meir, She became prime minister of Israel after being born in Ukraine in a time of pogroms. She emigrated with her family to Milwaukee when she was 8. After she married, she moved to what was then Palestine at age 23. Political activity was her raison d’etre, her reason for being.
Golda’s Balcony revolves around the Yom Kippur War in the autumn of 1973, just as the US was fighting its way through Watergate. Lavonne Byers carries this one-woman show on her shoulders and what used to be known as sensible shoes. She doesn’t impersonate Meir, so much as she relates her stories as she looks back on her life. The distinction shouldn’t concern an audience member; this is a tale to be heard and thought about, especially those days in ‘73 when it appeared as though Egypt was going to cut through Israel like it was a stick of butter. (Americans have to acknowledge many of us may have missed the details of it because of our gathering storm of Watergate.)
Byers is splendid. She creates a woman to be reckoned with, in one moment on the international stage, and a moment later worrying about a sick child and a pink silk lampshade. It’s a tour-de-force performance with a well-drawn script and director Henry Schvey combines the elements deftly. The setting combines lovely scenic design (whose details do come to be relevant) from Peter and Margery Spack with projections on the back wall, a technique we’re seeing more and more in local theater. This works particularly well here with lots of historical references – that some of us are old enough to recognize.
It’s a particularly swell time for history buffs. The rest of you will enjoy it, too.
through October 30
The New Jewish Theatre
The Wool Family Studio
Jewish Community Center Staenberg Family Complex
2 Millstone Campus Drive, Creve Coeur