By Alex Berger
Renee Taylor of TV's “The Nanny” portrays the famous Russian-born, American-bred, late prime minister of Israel. The show is produced and directed by Taylor's husband, Joseph Bologna.
Taylor courageously switches from her signature comedy routines into her first-ever dramatic endeavor.
In her one-woman portrayal of the 70-year old Meir, who, at that time, was the most powerful grandmother in the world, Taylor changes hats with ease. She gives a memorable performance that captures the humor and the pathos of the fabled Golda, the Milwaukee, Wisconsin, school teacher, who, following her Zionist call, emigrates to Israel in 1921 with her young husband, Morris Myerson, at age 23. Through a series of connecting vignettes on a naked stage, dressed in Meir's customary simple business attire and shawl, Taylor relates the terrors which overshadowed Meir's childhood, her stormy adolescence, her marriage, her emigration to Palestine, and the plunge she took as a dedicated Zionist and socialist into what she believed would be a unique society.
We follow the many compelling facets of Meir's life – her birth in Kiev, Russia, in 1898, moving to bustling Milwaukee in 1906, where she attended public school and graduated from Teachers' College to become a teacher in the public schools, and finally, emigrating to the land of Palestine in 1921.
She adopted the Hebrew name Meir, which means “to burn brightly,” in 1956. Taylor poignantly and humorously depicts Golda as she eventually became Israel's labor minister, foreign minister, and finally, the prime minister of Israel in 1969, while struggling with her conflicting roles as wife and mother.
Meir's life story truly reflects the story of Israel itself, and of its battle to survive, culminating in what was for Golda Meir the most desperate period of all, the terrible days of the Yom Kippur War of 1973. During the surprise attack on Israel by five Arab armies determined to push Israel into the sea, Meir appeals to the only friend Israel had at the time – America.
Speaking to Secretary of State Henry Kissinger, she appealed for more Phantom jets to repel the aggressors. “But, Golda,” Kissinger told her. “I can't. We are friends of the Arabs also. I am an American first, secretary of state second, and a Jew third.”
Meir calmly countered, “In our religion, we read right to left.” Israel got the planes.
The story of Golda Meir (who died in Jerusalem in 1978) reveals not only her inter-relationships with famous Israelis such as David Ben-Gurion and Moshe Dayan, but also with Kissinger, King Abdullah of Trans-Jordan, Anwar el-Sadat of Egypt, and other important figures.
In her quest for peace, Meir contacted King Abdullah, the only Arab leader friendly to Israel at the time. He welcomed the influx of Jews because of the knowledge they brought from around the world to the Middle East. But he could not persuade the other Arab leaders, and he was ultimately assassinated, as was Anwar el-Sadat, once he began to talk peace with Israel a few years later.
Taylor as Meir openly discusses Israel's right to exist, the saga of the British Mandate, the Arab question and the Arab refugees. Golda Meir's story is candid and human and Taylor's performance captures it all.
Meir says that peace between Arab and Jew will only come when all begin to love their children more than they hate their enemy.
“Golda” originally opened on Broadway in 1974 with a huge advance sale. Taylor revised and updated the script.
People ordering kosher dinner before the show were seated around large tables. Service was stopped once the play began. A separate area was available for those theatergoers who just wanted to see the show.
It's well worth the trip to Huntington to see it, snowstorm or no. Tickets are on sale now for all shows, either with dinner or for the performance only, ranging from $29 to $58, through Jan. 26. Also coming to the Huntington Town House in this first season of the dinner theater are Frank Gorshin and Lee Meriweather in Woody Alien's “Play It Again, Sam” (Jan. 31 -Feb. 11), Gabe Kaplan in “Groucho: A Life in Revue” (Feb. 28 -March 11) and Jack Carter and Mal Z. Lawrence in “Laughter on the 23rd Floor” (April 18-29). Call 718-347-8670.