“People love their mothers,” Tovah Feldshuh said. “Golda Meir is the full bodied, big breasted woman whose greatest love is the state of Israel. For one night, I can bring this mother of state back to life.”
Tovah Feldshuh is no stranger to Golda’s Balcony. Originating the role of Israel’s prime minister on Broadway in 2003, the four-time Tony nominee has reprised the part several times over the past decade. Fresh off Broadway, Feldshuh returned to Golda’s Balcony after playing Berthe in the Tony Award winning revival of Pippin. The veteran actress has a laundry list of theatre credits ranging from Yentl to Lend Me a Tenor.
“Be with me.” Feldshuh told me in a phone conversation. “Be with Golda … This is the most intimate production [at Theater J] of Golda’s Balcony in ten years. The theatre only has 248 seats. It will be a simple conversation between the audience and me. This is an up close and personal meeting with one of Israel’s leading ladies. It is a small, exclusive campfire sharing Golda’s stories.”
Talking to Tovah is like talking to an old friend. With her passion for Zionism and enthusiasm for peace in the Middle East, Feldshuh transforms into Golda.
For her performance, the trim actress sports a fat suit, fake nose and wig to morph into Israel’s beloved prime minister. Saturday night, after stripping off her makeup and costume, she excitedly hugged audience members and toasted director Ari Roth after the landmark performance. Washington, DC is an especially important city for Feldshuh on a personal level because it is her husband’s hometown and was their first home as a married couple.
Holding the record for the longest running one-woman play on Broadway, Golda’s Balcony follows Golda’s journey from the streets of Russia to walls of the Knesset. Playwright William Gibson, best known for penning The Miracle Worker, wrote Golda’s Balcony as his final piece.
“Golda is a socialist, Zionist and idealist,” says Feldshuh. “She is a lioness crying for peace in the belly of war. She believes that all of us deserve to live in peace and deserve the right to exist. What more could a mother ask? That is why I keep doing the play.”
Emphasizing her role and decisions in the 1973 Yom Kippur War, the play provides a face-to-face encounter with Israel’s fourth prime minister. In 90 minutes, the audience is taken on a journey through Golda’s life. From immigrating from Kiev to Milwaukee, the audience discovers the real Golda Meir. Cigarette in hand, Golda reveals her most intimate secrets and welcomes the audience into her world. The show is a crash course on the creation and struggles of the modern state of Israel.
Part of the Voices from a Changing Middle East Festival
Closes April 27, 2014
1529 Sixteenth Street, NW
1 hour, 30 minutes, no intermission
Tickets: $60 – $65
Tuesdays thru Sundays
“Every time I put on this show, I learn something new about her. She is a woman from Milwaukee, Wisconsin who never expected to be Prime Minister. This is constantly a work in process, not a product. I still do this play because it’s a story that needs to be told and a voice and an opinion that needs to be heard.”
The set consists of a table and four chairs with a digital screen projecting the walls of Jerusalem and figures of key political players; the basic set is portable and can be played from large theatres to intimate audiences.
Feldshuh’s connection to Golda continues to grow with every production. Her 21-night engagement in Washington, DC, she says, will be her “greatest performance of Golda to date.” “Just like Wendy returns to Peter Pan, every year, I need to return to do Golda,” says Feldshuh.
Allie Freedman has just returned from Israel where she worked for The Jerusalem Post as a reporter for jpost.com and the daily print edition. Her work has also been featured in Time Out:Israel and EJewish Philanthropy. She is a graduate of George Washington University.