Wednesday, April 6, 2011

Theatrical Performance Review:Fiddler on the Roof

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On Thursday, September 1th I attended Fiddler on the Roof, performed at the Lewiston Civic Theater. This was an extrinsic play about a Russian Jewish family during the reformation. One might say that this play would qualify as both a comedy and a romance. The director, Fred Scheibe, did an excellent job in the production of this play, and the actors put on an excellent performance.

The plot of the play was linear in structure, and was extrinsically depicted. The show began with a very definitive exposition. Each character was introduced and well developed early in the show. The point of attack taken was at the “beginning” of the story. There was no retelling of past events, only an explanation and identification of characters and present situations. The inciting incident could be defined when Tevye is forced with a decision of whether or not to break a previous agreement and permit his first-born daughter, Tzeitel, to marry the man she loves. This incident also poses as the first crisis. The next crisis is introduced with the proposed marriage of his second daughter, Hodel, to a radicalist, and her voyage to the “frozen wasteland” of Siberia to be with him. Finally, the “major” crisis occurred, his other daughter of eligible marriage age, Chava, wished Tevye’s blessing on her marriage to a Russian soldier, Fyedka, and thus marrying out of the Jewish faith. Unfortunately, Tevye could not find it within himself to permit this and provide his blessing. Determined to be with her love, his daughter marries Fyedka anyway and, as a result, is rejected by her father and her family. Following Tevye’s disappointment in his daughter, the entire village of Anatevka is evicted by the Russian military, forcing Tevye and his family to move from their home, and thus, separate the family. The catharsis can be pinpointed to the moment when Tevye says to his third daughter, “God be with you.” This statement is an indication that Tevye was willing to bend his will, beliefs, background, and character, in order to accept and love his daughter despite her marriage outside of the faith. This catharsis served to initiate the resolution, because it allowed the family to, one day, reunite.

Without a doubt, Tevye was the protagonist of the play. Not only was he portrayed as “the good guy,” but more importantly, he was the lead or main character. The person, in which, the story was centralized around. I would venture to say that he also played the role of the chorus as well, because he directed the audience in understanding what was occurring in the play and “filled in the blanks” of the story. However, in more modern terms, his role would, more appropriately be described as a narrator. The most obvious antagonist would be the Russian military, for they wreaked havoc on the villagers and forced them out of their homes. However, at different times throughout the play different villagers were in dispute with Tevye. I would also suppose that another antagonist could be identified as the matchmaker, because she arranged marriages that, oftentimes, girls were not entirely approving of.

Although, the diction alone is hard to evaluate in a live performance, the deliverance of the diction was, generally, well accomplished. However, there were times throughout the play that a certain character, namely Motel the tailor, was difficult to hear, both while he was speaking and while he was singing. He desperately needed to learn how to project his voice more effectively. At the same time, the vocal inflections of the butcher resembled a steady wave of increasing and decreasing intensity with a monotonous pitch. Variation in both pitch and intensity that is applicable with the desired emotion and effect is vital to effectively expressing one’s dialogue. Also, the radicalist, Perchik, had a little difficulty singing one of his pieces. Although his performing skills were exceptional, his tone was lacking. On a different note, I really enjoyed the use of Russian accent in this production. Naturally, there were times throughout the production that the actors would forget or fail to use their accent, but overall it was maintained rather well. The usage of the accent added flare to the whole performance.

Effectively expressing the diction is also vital for setting the mood of the play. After all, it serves as a large part of the “music” of the play, because it forms the tone, rhythm, and tempo. This particular production had several changes in mood. At one moment there is an aire of celebration, and happiness, only to be changed in an instant to sadness, desperation, longing, or even anger. At the same time, sarcastic comedy thrown in throughout the entire play maintained a spirit of lightheartedness, and a sense of realistic-ness. The director did a beautiful job in choreographing all aspects of the production to articulate the “perfect” mood. I particularly enjoyed the added effects of the orchestra, directed by Don Campbell.

Another key in setting the mood, or more accurately, creating an appropriate atmosphere, is the spectacle. In my opinion, it is the spectacle that makes or breaks a live production. In this particular case, it made it! Naturally, the set perspective was impressionist, as it is with most live performances. The lighting was remarkably set in such a way that night and day were easily distinguishable. And a sense of sadness could often be associated with the use of blue dimmed lights. And celebrations and times of happiness and joy were always bright and well lit. Costuming and makeup was appropriate for the time, location, religious affiliation, and socioeconomic status of the characters. As I said before, the play was spectacularly done, especially for a theatrical association with limited resources.

Fiddler on the Roof concentrates particularly on family, and the trials that families often have to face in difficult and changing times. It is this notion of family that the theme is centralized around. That above all, there is nothing that can take away from the importance of sticking by your family, supporting each other, loving each other, and remaining united no matter what the cost may be. This is evident by the catharsis that Tevye underwent in order to “regain” his family. Another underlying theme may have been that “change” isn’t always a bad thing and sometimes is it is just better to accept change then to fight it. This is supported by the traditions of the elder generation in conflict with the new ideas and new ways of doing things that are consistently introduced throughout the play. In each of the cases of conflict, the “new” idea is eventually permitted and viewed as acceptable, at least to some degree.

Overall, Fiddler on the Roof was remarkable and I would highly recommend anyone to go and see this production. The director did a wonderful job with every aspect of the play. And the actors put on a marvelous performance. If I had the financial resources, I might even go back to see it a second time.

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