Fiddler on the Roof: I Know This guy

Here, in our little village of Anatevka, you might say every one of us is a fiddler on the roof. Trying to scratch out a pleasant, simple tune without breaking his neck. It isn't easy. You may ask, why do we stay up there if it's so dangerous? Well, we stay because Anatevka is our home. (Tevye the Dairyman)

It's not easy being a dad. You want to provide for your family, see your marriageable daughters make good unions, be at peace with your wife, and get along with the neighbors. You want to do all that in the context of the traditions that have helped you and your peasant neighbors keep your balance from one generation to the next. Without those traditions, you'd be "as shaky as a fiddler on the roof."

These ordinary challenges of peasant life become complicated in 1905, when Tsarist Russia is inflicting pogroms on the Jewish people there, even driving out the Jews to America, the Holy Land--anyplace that isn't Russia.

Tevye the Dairyman (Thomas Camm) plays the role of a dad struggling from day to day amid such turmoil in The Act Association of the Abbey of Regina Laudis's production of Fiddler on the Roof in Bethlehem, Connecticut this week. Based on the stories of Sholom Aleichem, Joseph Stein's Fiddler first opened on Broadway in 1965.

Tevye and his wife Golde (Sarah Robards) try to arrange the marriages of their three oldest daughters according to Jewish traditions, but the girls insist on marrying for love. He and his wife do the best they can to accept the bohemian ideas of Perchik the student, who instigates male-female dancing at Tzeitel's wedding to the tailor and later dashes off to Kiev to promote other more revolutionary ideas. Golde will accept Fyedka the Russian student for Hodel, but Tevye will not accept a non-Jew in the family. He will bend with some alterations to tradition, but he will not be broken on this point.

There can be no happy ending to a play with a pogrom, though Fiddler's generous use of humor softens the blows that come with each new day in the lives of this family comes to our rescue even as the family faces exile. The family moves on, preferring to think of exile to America as opportunity rather than a symptom of oppression. In the end, they take the fiddler with them--tradition and balance are never far away.

This Abbey production will leave you feeling their joy and their pain. I know this Papa. He's a lot like my own.

Click here for the lyrics to the songs of Fiddler.