Theatre Review: “Golda’s Balcony”

“Oh no, not another Jewish mother!” was Tovah Feldshuh’s first reaction to being offered the role of former Israeli Prime Minister Golda Meir in the one-woman play Golda’s Balcony. This was an understandable response, since Feldshuh had made a significant impression on the acting world through her stage portrayal of bubbies and other Jewish characters, including that of the protagonist in Yentl. But when Golda’s Balcony – which is coming to the Westhampton Beach Performing Arts Center for one night on Sunday, July 31 – became the longest running one-woman show on Broadway, Feldshuh started kvelling instead. [expand]

Now a resident of New York City, this actress’s first career path did not quite go as planned. After graduating from Sarah Lawrence College, she wanted to attend the same law school that her father had gone to years before. Instead, she was wait-listed from Harvard Law School and decided to give acting a shot. “I received the McKnight Fellowship in acting that same year,” Feldshuh explains in her uniquely strong voice, and so she headed out to the University of Minnesota to act. This change was not such a stretch for the actor, though, as she explains that both she and her father had to perform in their own ways—he in the courtroom, she on the stage. This once law school-hopeful has had the opportunity to try her hand at on-screen litigation, though, in her recurring role on Law and Order as defense attorney Danielle Melnick, for which the actor received an Emmy Award nomination.

But this four-time Tony Award-nominated actor has most recently been making waves on the stage in Golda’s Balcony. Feldshuh was invited to join this project in the winter of 2002, and began rehearsals a year later. The play tells the life story of one of the most powerful women to ever enter the political world, Golda Meir. At one point a Milwaukee schoolteacher, Meir went on to be elected as Israel’s leading political figure in 1969. For Feldshuh, the best part of portraying Meir comes in showing how “she started from such humble beginnings,” as a child in a poor family in Kiev, but then managed to lead a powerful country at war. The story was made into a movie in 2007, starring Valerie Harper as the title character.

After seeing the incredible success she was having in the show, Feldshuh decided to appropriate the rights several years ago. She then went on to take the show to the London stage for a short while in 2008. After receiving an invitation from the Westhampton Beach Performing Arts Center, Feldshuh decided that it was time for her to bring this show to the East End, and she’s eager to come out here. The actor shares her love of the Hamptons, saying that “I love the sea…it’s gorgeous.”

Feldshuh has won several prestigious awards throughout her career, including four Drama Desk awards, four Outer Critics Circle awards, the Obie, the Theatre World Award, and the Lucille Lortel Award for Best Actress for her work in Golda’s Balcony. But for this wife and mother, her proudest achievement is not related to her career. “I’m most proud of my soon-to-be 36-year marriage,” Feldshuh admits, “it makes even the longest runs on Broadway seem like a joke.”

Golda’s Balcony, starring Tovah Feldshuh, at the Westhampton Beach Performing Arts Center, 76 Main Street, Westhampton Beach. Sunday, July 31, 8:30 p.m. For information and tickets, 631-288-1500, www.whbpac.org. [/expand]

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