Valerie Harper Is Not Jewish. You’d Never Know it Here.


Mary Richards’s best friend Rhoda aside, Valerie Harper is not Jewish. But you’d never know it from the divinely adenoidal whine in which the actress superbly serves up Israel’s least photogenic and (next to Yitzhak Rabin) best-loved prime minister—as well as every other player in Jeremy Kagan’s excellent adaptation of William Gibson’s stage play. From one of two politically resonant patios, Golda Meir looks out on archival photos and footage that tie her own history to that of Israel as it beats a bloody path to statehood, from the pogroms that Goldie Mabovitz witnessed as a child in Kiev, through the Holocaust, which cast a shadow on her youth in Milwaukee, and on to the tumultuous brokering of a partitioned Palestine in 1948. There’s not an image maker alive today who could spiff up Golda, she of the bag dresses, crinkly bun, and thick ankles planted in granny shoes. Golda’s Balcony handily dispatches Meir’s grandmotherly image and establishes her as an activist, macher, and fundraiser extraordinaire, and a hard-headed Zionist whose siege mentality was shaped by the Holocaust and the five hostile Arab nations she saw as ready to destroy the fledgling state. The other balcony takes us into speculation that Golda considered unleashing nuclear weapons on Egypt in 1973’s Yom Kippur War. That’s unverified, but anyone who could bluff Henry Kissinger into coughing up billions in aid is an iron lady for the ages.