Thursday, June 08, 2006

Lively Jewish Arts and Culture

Golda's BalconyI saw Valerie Harper last night as Golda. What energy that woman has! And her ability to go from the serious, to the whimsical, to the logistical was excellent. The show, though written in a reverential and melodramatic style, still is worth attention. The life and times of Golda were truly amazing. Here is a woman who spanned continents, wars, oppressions, and helped to build a Jewish nation.

The play gives us this information in flashbacks of reverie as Golda is preparing to release a nuclear attack on the Egyptians and the Syrians in the '73 Yom Kippur War. She is only waiting for Kissinger to get back to her to see if the US wil give its aid to Israel, so Israel won't use the nuclear option.

So the play is a bit like the Cuban Missile Crisis with the history of the building of the State of Israel. We see her mooods, her energy, her passion, her competition with the men in politics -- Ben Gurion, Moshe Dayan, Yigal Allon, etc., and her relationship with her husband that she had to continually leave behind in her work to build Israel.

But what was missing was the depth, the introspection, the self-awareness of history in the making, and the Jewish questionning that must have come into her decision making processes. Other than throwing in that she liked to make chicken soup for her soldiers, Gibson could have gone deeper than that.

A few years ago "Copenhagen" by Michael Frayn opened, positing what might have happened at a meeting of Neils Bohr and Werner Heisenberg, both Nobel laureates, in September 1941 when Germany was advancing in the research to build the atomic bomb. The play was a Brechtian approach to the intricacies of the mind and the life and death consequences that science can have. It was both chilling and written like a mathematical puzzle. It was an example of how history can inform our thinking and how the actors on the world stage can become as gods.

Golda was in that moment, not only in'73, but as a Jew who had been over continents and lived through the time of the Holocaust. What was going on in her soul? What was her Jewish soul? This is what is lacking in Gibson's play.

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