25 May 2012

What Happens When Idealism Becomes Power?

That's the epic question that Golda Meir (as played with determination, pathos, and not a little humor by Kate Alexander) asks while she navigates the Scylla and Charybdis of negotiation and nuclear attack during 1973's Yom Kippur War in the production of William Goldman's one-woman play directed by Terence Lamude at Playhouse on Park.  Her answer I won't give away, but the Israeli Prime Minister faced with the question is simultaneously worlds away from, and remarkably similar to, the girl from Milwaukee who ran away to Denver to get away from her bossy parents.

Any one-actor show has to overcome a primary obstacle: how to remain dramatically, and even visually, dynamic with a single character, who, by definition, is limited in her interactions not only with others, but also with chronology and setting.  Everything needs to work to ensure that the audience isn’t simply experiencing one person talking at them.  And this production avoids that obstacle completely.  The tight script allows Alexander to move seamlessly between the current crisis and earlier times and across the spectrum of human emotion, while Lamude’s direction keeps the 95 minutes, with no intermission, moving at a pace brisk, varied, and suspenseful.  The Jo Winiarski-designed set, a sleek war room with a bank of television screens that allow images of important players (Moshe Dayan, Henry Kissinger, et alia) and events to pop up as necessary, gives the actress both enough room to live her life and enough detail to make the immediate crisis tangible.  The lighting and sound effects, as designed by Rachel Budin and David Thomas, respectively, also add to the rich texture and help populate the action.
Given that we are entering Memorial Day weekend, a time when we honor those who have paid the ultimate price for their country, the play offers a sobering insight into those leaders who must send others into harm’s way (a euphemism, of course, for sending young people to war where some, maybe even many, will die).  One needs not approve of her decisions, or even her beliefs, to appreciate Golda Meir’s character and courage.  Something indeed happens when idealism becomes power.  Could you have responded differently?  See the show, and consider your answer.

The play runs through June 3rd

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