London Fringe 2018: So Tevye — Unbalanced Screed on Faith Fails to Live Up to Its Name

By Jay Menard

So Tevye may not need another daughter, but it clearly can use some refinement, edits, focus, and better pacing. There is a rudimentary foundation of a story in this play, but a lack of subtlety in delivery and challenges with its pacing causes that promising potential to be lost.

The production is Monda Halpern’s So Tevye, Could You Use Another Daughter. And there’s a certain chutzpah involved with name dropping Tevye in a production. Due to the iconic status of the character (known from Fiddler on the Roof and the Tevye series of novels from whence the film and play were inspired), you’re setting expectations extremely high about the quality of the content, at very least. When those expectations are elevated, it’s beholden on all involved to live up to them.

Unfortunately, this presentation falls far short of that internally established standard and the production suffers as a result.

There are some good moments — almost exclusively relating to Deighton Thomas’ performance as Isaac. He provides a thoughtful, nuanced portrayal of the family patriarch, who attends at his daughter’s house — to be almost immediately berated for dating a younger women not of the Jewish faith.

The other two characters: Sonia Halpern’s Hannah and Lyle Goorvich’s David, exist on either side of the performance spectrum. For the most part, Halpern equates volume with passion and her constant delivery method of shouting doesn’t allow for any subtlety of emotion. With no valleys, the audience becomes numb to the peaks, and renders the dialogue less effective. Goorvich bulldozes through his lines in a relatively passionless monotone — seeming to rush the lines rather than emote them.

The rest of the staging is fine. A simple table with three chairs, a secondary table where Hanna deposits her groceries, allows for the focus to be on the three actors. The challenge comes with the interaction between the characters. The conversations feel stilted and forced, there’s little natural cadence, and there were even a few awkward pauses — including a prominent one at the end of the show — that serve to disrupt the flow.

It all adds up to a play that has a deeply emotional foundation — discussing questions of the fundamental nature that faith plays in one’s life, and the impact of the Holocaust and the memories possessed by its survivors on the diaspora — but is unable to build upon that foundation in the structure of this production. It’s an interesting concept — in the Tevye tales, his daughters leave the faith due to their relationships with non-Jewish men; in this production, it is Hannah who sees her father and ex-husband dating outside the faith. That’s potentially a clever modern twist on a traditional story.

There’s something there. There are multiple interesting topics broached in the play, but the focus on volume and a rushed conversational cadence don’t allow those ideas the time and space they need to breathe and come to fruition.

This review originally appeared on theatreinlondon.ca

 

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