Tevye Goes to the Psychiatrist

Act III, Scene 1. Lights come up on TEVYE sitting in DR BAUMBERGER’s office on Thirty-Ninth and Park. It is his first visit.

DR BAUMBERGER
Why don’t you start at the beginning.

TEVYE
It all started in a little village called Anatevka. You see, I have five daughters.

DR BAUMBERGER
Five?

TEVYE
Well, two of them are extraneous.

DR BAUMBERGER
I see.

TEVYE
Anyway, each of my three daughters presented me with a romantic predicament that called into question my faith and my commitment to tradition.

DR BAUMBERGER
That sounds very difficult.

TEVYE
Oh it was. On the one hand, this, on the other hand, that, on the other other hand, the other thing. As the Good Book says: and God gave unto Adam two hands, because decision-making was not very complex back then.

DR BAUMBERGER
Tell me about your first daughter.

TEVYE
I had promised my eldest, Tzeitel, to be wed to a wealthy butcher named Lazar Wolf who’s older than I am. But she had been in love for many years with a poor but age-appropriate tailor named Motel.

DR BAUMBERGER
Why did you promise her to Lazar Wolf?

TEVYE
To be honest, from the name I assumed he was a werewolf who could shoot lasers, and the prospect of angering him frightened me. As the Good Book says: when Moses came face to face with the Pharaoh’s army of laser wolves, he knew it would take a miracle to save his people. That’s when he parted the Red Sea.

DR BAUMBERGER
Have you ever actually read the Good Book?

TEVYE
Anyway, I decided I could not compel my daughter to marry a man she didn’t love when there was a very charming and convincing young man whom she did.

DR BAUMBERGER
I’m sure your wife was relieved when you told her.

TEVYE
Well, I didn’t exactly tell her that. I fabricated an elaborated dream where my wife’s grandmother returned from the grave to bless my daughter’s marriage to the butcher, not the tailor — or wait, the tailor, not the butcher. I can never remember.

DR BAUMBERGER
Why would you do all that instead of just telling her the truth?

TEVYE
Because the theatrics were excellent.

DR BAUMBERGER
I see.

TEVYE
And if we continue to break down the barriers of tradition, when does it stop?

DR BAUMBERGER
So tell me about your next daughter.

TEVYE
My next daughter, Hodel, fell in love with a visiting student whom I hired to tutor my daughters. When he returned to Kiev, she informed me that they were in love and he would send for her.

DR BAUMBERGER
Ah, an all too familiar story of a teenage crush. I’m sure when she got over the whole thing she understood why you had to step in.

TEVYE
Uh, I actually let her go.

DR BAUMBERGER
Oh. I was not expecting that. But I guess as a student he could provide her a good life.

TEVYE
Well, he was going back to fight in the Communist Revolution.

DR BAUMBERGER
So you let your daughter follow this guy she barely knew to go fight in the Communist Revolution in Kiev?

TEVYE
Actually, before she left, we heard a rumor that he was arrested and imprisoned in Siberia.

DR BAUMBERGER
Oh, well you should have mentioned that earlier. I’m sure she was upset, but at least she didn’t wind up going to Kiev.

TEVYE
Yeah, she went to Siberia instead.

DR BAUMBERGER
Are you fucking with me, Tevye?

TEVYE
She sang this song and it was really emotional. How could I tell her she couldn’t go to Siberia?

DR BAUMBERGER
Did she have a plan for how she was going to find the Siberian labor camp where this guy was allegedly imprisoned?

TEVYE
I don’t know. She took the train.

DR BAUMBERGER
And she seemed to know where she was going?

TEVYE
Well, she kept referring to it as “a distant land.”

DR BAUMBERGER
Did she have any concept of world geography?

TEVYE
Probably not. She had never left our shtetl before.

DR BAUMBERGER
It sounds like you didn’t really think this one through, Tevye.

TEVYE
Sure, it was a little crazy. But you know what? My daughter was in love. I trust that she knows what will make her happy. Who am I to stand in her way?

DR BAUMBERGER
That’s very progressive of you, Tevye. You know, perhaps I was a little too critical before. It’s admirable how much you trusted Hodel to follow her heart.

TEVYE
Thank you, Dr. Baumberger.

DR BAUMBERGER
So tell me about your next daughter.

TEVYE
Well, my youngest relevant daughter, Chava, fell in love with a nice young man, but he wasn’t Jewish.

DR BAUMBERGER
I’m sure it was difficult for you to let her marry outside the faith, but I’m glad you learned to let your daughters do what makes them happy, even when it means breaking from tradition.

TEVYE
So about that…

DR BAUMBERGER takes out a pad and writes a prescription for ZOLOFT.
Blackout.

New Yorker, Yale ‘18, programmer, musician, writer, occasional stand-up comedian

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