Annette Miller as Golda Meir./NILE SCOTT STUDIOS

As always, Golda delivers

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As always, Golda delivers

Annette Miller as Golda Meir./NILE SCOTT STUDIOS

“Golda’s Balcony” and Annette Miller’s powerful performance as the title fourth (and so far only woman) Prime Minister of Israel resonate now more than ever. Last summer, Shakespeare & Company returned to the William Gibson one-woman play that had its world premiere in 2002 in Lenox – once again with Daniel Gidron as director and Miller as Golda Meir.

The 100-minute, no intermission solo work is set during the 1973 Yom Kippur War – when Egypt and Syria attacked Israel. Of course, this run follows the Oct. 7 massacre of Israelis on Shemini Etzeret (at the close of Sukkot) by Hamas, and Israel’s ongoing war with the Gaza-based terrorists and efforts to rescue hostages. Theatergoers at the intimate Jackie Liebergott black box at the Emerson Paramount Center are likely to see parallels between Golda’s questions about dealing with the 1973 attack and issues about Israel’s pre-Oct. 7 intelligence.

Meir’s self-doubts move through both her personal and professional lives in Gibson’s insightful play. Goldie Myerson, the activist wife – for whom “The cause (the independence and survival of Israel) was my life” – wonders if it was a mistake that husband Morris married her. At the same time, she continually details the conflicting views of the likes of Moshe Dayan and Yigal Allon during cabinet meetings that challenged her own approach to defending Israel. That approach consistently has Meir pushing for American military assistance on phone calls with Secretary of State Henry Kissinger and resisting the worst-case scenario employment of the Dimona nuclear reactor (constructed in 1967 with French assistance). The play’s title actually derives from the nickname for a secret area for observation of activity at the Dimona facility.

By contrast, there are proud moments outlining successes. “We brought our state back into being,” she notes. Meir’s own efforts in pursuit of that reality raise $50 million in the United States. There is also a vivid memory of 50,000 Jews fondly mobbing her in Russia during a Rosh Hashanah visit.

Throughout Gibson artfully presents a rich and complex profile of Golda as a woman, wife, parent and leader. Meir recalls finding refuge from Russian pogroms in Milwaukee and devoting a half century of activism and pioneering in and on behalf of Israel. Gibson’s dramatic monologue unflinchingly presents Golda suffering with terminal lymphoma and agonizing over the seeming impossibility of achieving peace with Israel’s neighbors (a situation somewhat improved by treaties since 1979 with Egypt and 1994 with Jordan).

Under Gidron’s sharp direction, Miller (a very deserving Norton and IRNE award winner for the role) once again brings Golda to vivid life. Calling on the audience members to “Use your imagination,” she rivetingly becomes both the remarkably strong-willed and physically vulnerable Meir. Miller arrestingly moves with spirit and purpose between coordinator Patrick Brennan’s smartly minimal set pieces – simple domestic furniture stage left, a desk flanked by photos of first Prime Minister David Ben Gurion and prophetic Zionist leader Theodore Herzl at center and a podium for speeches stage right. A large map of Israel hangs on the backdrop – a constant reminder of Golda’s unwavering commitment to Israel’s survival. Miller captures all of Meir’s weariness in moments of uncertainty about governmental decisions and transcendent warmth at times of triumph – especially describing the return of refugees and survivors from Africa, Arabia and even China. She brings haunting intensity to Golda’s “Never Again!” insistence about the chilling reminder of 22 concentration camps at Israel’s Yad Vashem Holocaust memorial.

Gibson’s thoughtful play “Golda’s Balcony” speaks of Meir’s contacts with Jordan’s King Abdullah I – later assassinated by a Palestinian as he prayed at the Al Aqsa Mosque (1951). Will Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu follow Golda’s lead as a seeker of understanding? Theatergoers should embrace Miller’s emotional and urgent closing repetition of the word “Shalom” as a timely blessing for peace. Θ

“Golda’s Balcony” runs through March 10 at the Emerson Paramount Center.

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