- Golda's Balcony
- April 1, Smith Center
On April 1, the Smith Center for the Performing Arts hosted its first play, a production of Golda’s Balcony, by William Gibson, a co-promotion between the Smith Center, the Jewish Federation of Las Vegas and the Jewish Repertory Theatre of Nevada. The good news for everyone involved—and anyone who loves theater—is that the show was an absolute knockout, and the Smith Center got it right when it comes to presenting theater, too.
A one-woman show, Golda’s Balcony is a twin telling of the 1973 October war between Israel and Egypt and Syria, interlaced with the biography of Golda Meir, the prime minister of Israel during the war (and an integral figure in the founding of the modern nation of Israel). It calls for a tour de force performance, and actress Tovah Feldshuh never wavered, whipsawing between characters and their different mannerisms, accents and bearings clearly enough to bring each to life and distinctly enough not to lose any of them. Even with the serious subject, the show is laced with acerbic wit—coming at the perfect moments.
A beautiful sequence starts with Feldshuh (as Meir) lighting a candle in remembrance of her estranged husband, which leads into a story about the commemoration of all those lost in the concentration camps. It’s a beautiful, touching moment—followed immediately by a comment about being able to buy a knish nearby. The joke alleviates any maudlin bombast, pulls the audience back to the present and conveys the essence of Meir’s character. The show was a string of moments like this.
And the Smith Center shone in presenting the play. Even from the gallery (the fourth floor in the elevator, one down from the balcony) the sight lines were superb, and while you knew you were a distance from the stage, it didn’t feel like it, visually or aurally. Getting vocal intelligibility and clarity is different than either symphonic sound or amplified music—but from this sample, it sounds like the Smith Center nailed it.
I left the performance and, perhaps for the first time in Las Vegas, felt no doubts about a show, performance or space. It was an astonishing production in a place built to hold and celebrate such productions. The show played only one day, but the memory of it, and the promise of more to come from the Smith Center, will stay with me.