Fiddler on the Roof is one of those stories that is both universal and specific. The story of an everyman trying to balance family and tradition in a changing world speaks to all of us, regardless of background or location.
The new production of Fiddler on the Roof in Yiddish is playing at the New World Stages in New York City. Directed by Joel Grey, Steven Skybell plays Teyve, the poor dairyman living in the Pale of Settlement in the early 20th century. He and his wife, Golde (Jennifer Babiak), they are raising five daughters under difficult circumstances.
Three of their five daughters are of age to marry. Tsaytl (Rachel Zatcoff), Hodl (Stephanie Lynn Mason), and Khave (Rosie Jo Neddy) marry for love instead of waiting for a husband to be presented to them. As each presents their potential spouse to their father, the thread of tradition begins to fray.
While Tevye is doing with familial issues, the outside is getting closer. Antisemitism is forcing reality all of the characters to face reality and the hard truth about their circumstances.
This production is fantastic. The fact that the characters speak in the mamaloshen (mother tongue) of Yiddish adds a level of gravity to the narrative. It is as if the audience is one step closer to the real people who called that time and place their own.
There is a moment (which I will not give away) that completely represents the message of Fiddler. It happens at the very end of the first act and as far as I know, has not been done in past productions. It is a breathtakingly horrible moment that I don’t think I will ever forget.
Seeing this adaptation in 2022 and knowing what is happening in Ukraine grounds it in a reality that I never expected. It is nothing short of a gut punch.
Do I recommend it? Absolutely.
Fiddler on the Roof in Yiddish is playing at the New World Stages in New York City until January 1st, 2023. Check the website for tickets and showtimes.
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