Friday, May 07, 2010

First, I am...

Last Friday, I was sitting at my desk, minding my own business, when an email alert popped up. It was from The Old Globe Theater with a chance to win free tickets to see “Golda’s Balcony.” I don’t think I’ve ever turned down free theater, and I wasn’t about to start now. I entered into the contest and went about the rest of my day.

Later that night, I got an email response informing me I was a winner! Two free tickets to see Golda’s Balcony last night. The only catch was that I had to write a hundred word review of the show for them to use. Which seemed fine to me, since I usually love to enthrall y’all with my musings on whatever theatrical experience I take part in anyway. (And as a side note, I’ve already exceeded 100 words just in this introduction, so how hard can a 100 word review be?)

As it turns out, a lot harder than one would think – because after the show as I sat and thought about which angle I was going to attack this from, I realized my problem was going to be how to keep the review to 100 words. There is just much too much involved.

First, a little background. “Golda’s Balcony” is a one-woman show starring Tovah Feldshuh. The show, written by William Gibson, began on Broadway in 2003 and is to date the longest running one woman show on Broadway. Feldshuh has received numerous accolades for her performance, including a tony nomination. The show runs 90s minutes…ish, and I have to admit that I was a little nervous about sitting for so long during such a performance. I’m familiar with one person shows, (I think I might have taken an entire course on Anna Devere Smith….or at least that’s how it felt with so much time devoted to her solo performance pieces.) but the concept was new for Thatboy. He was surprised that the set consisted of a table with several chairs. “Who are the other chairs for?” He asked. I smiled and told him that just because there was one actress on stage, did not mean there would only be one character.

In fact, that was one of Thatboy’s favorite parts of the show – as Feldshuh morphed from Golda Meir to Moshe Dayan to Dado Elazar and back within moments, Thatboy was impressed with her acting agility. One watches with the same amount of respect given to an Olympian who seems to make the impossible seem effortless. But it is Feldshuh’s portrayal of Golda Meir which is the true triumph of the piece. She is at once grandmother and ogre. Hard and compassionate. She’s a tough talking, no nonsense, chain smoker who cries at the thought of sending young boys to war.

It wasn’t the one woman show aspect that worried me, it was the subject matter. Because one simply cannot separate the subject of Golda Meir from the subject of Israel, and more importantly Zionism. And my worry was about sitting through 90 minutes of intense political diatribe. In retrospect, I informed Thatmom after the performance, I’m not quite sure why I was worried. Within moments of entering the stage, Feldshuh had the audience in the palm of her hand with her “warts and all” portrayal of Golda Meir. I had forgotten the golden rule in Judaism, “nothing without humor.” It is true that even in dark times, troubled times, times of sorrow and hardship, the Jews, as a people, have never lost their sense of humor. And so this intensely political piece about a hard woman, often referred to as the “Iron Lady” who fought to create a Jewish homeland was lightened with humor throughout. When Feldshuh brought the audience to the Syrian refugee camps as Meir attempted to convince hundreds of refugees to give up their quota for the next month so that children could be removed from the camps instead, Feldshuh tells of the horrors of the Holocaust, but interspersed throughout are tales of her “bodyguards” the children of the camp who surround her and give her paper flowers. The constant bounce from darkness to levity is echoed in the plot itself. Meir’s narrative centers around the cabinet meeting, held in October 1973, during the Yom Kippur War. The cabinet met to discuss the growing losses in the war, and the promises of aid that were not materializing. Growing closer and closer to the moment at which the decision to arm the Israeli planes with nuclear weapons, Meir breaks off to discuss “happier things” such as her initial romance with her husband, and the time on the kibbutz. The play volleys between the cabinet meeting and important parts of Meir’s life, creating a picture of a driven, single minded woman.

In the play, Meir discusses a conversation she had with Henry Kissinger in which he stated he was first an American, second Secretary of State, and Third, a Jew.” It is clear from this portrayal of Golda Meir that she considered herself first and foremost a Jew. Everything else was secondary. Including her role as wife and mother. It forced me to think of how I would describe myself if I had to rank. Where does being Jewish fit in my self view? What about everything else? As important as my religion is, and it is the most intrinsic part of me, I don’t know that I would identify myself as a Jew beyond all else. Although the fact that others may is a weight I’ve carried around since I was in Elementary school, and the reason it is so important to me to raise our children within the Jewish faith. Despite graduating from law school, I would hardly characterize myself as “first a lawyer.” Sometimes I think I am “first a woman,” but even there I pause, because the sound of that rings against my ears like the bra-burners of the 60s and I’ve long identified as “not being a feminist.” Everything else spins around like a juggling act – a cook? A runner? An actress? A daughter? A wife? And perhaps this lack of singlemindedness is what causes a disconnect between the play and myself. Because I can’t imagine being one thing above all else.

Obviously the show provokes thought and discussion, both of the introspective nature, but also between people. It sparked an interesting conversation between Thatboy and I. He informed me that he liked Golda Meir less after seeing the show – which I think is interesting, because I wonder if he would feel the same way about her actions if she was a man. Which brings me back to the whole “woman” thing – see it’s hard to put yourself in a single box! We enjoyed our night out immensely, even if it meant running around like crazy after work to walk the dog and grab dinner, and pick up Thatboy from his office, and being absolutely exhausted today. Speaking of, I grabbed one of these at the race last weekend and thought it would be perfect for tired me today.

Only to find out, it was actually this.

Yes folks, that’s CANNED WATER. And while it makes WAY more sense that they were handing out water at a race and not Monster energy drinks, WHO PUTS WATER IN A MONSTER CAN? Such deceptive packaging. I probably wouldn’t be quite so upset if I wasn’t so gosh darn tired. Now excuse me while I drive this bus full of girlscouts somewhere important. I’m sure I’ll be able to keep my eyes open for a bit longer.