Thursday, December 2, 2010

'Fiddler' redux

By Meredith Deliso

Finally, “Fiddler on the Roof” gets a 21st-century reboot.

In “The Cosmopolitans,” Prospect Heights-based writer Nadia Kalman uses the iconic musical as a launching pad for a story about a Russian family that flees the Soviet Union and lands, of all places, in Connecticut.

“I watched ‘Fiddler on the Roof’ a couple of times growing up in Stamford, and, as an immigrant from that part of the world, it seemed to reflect how people saw us as immigrants,” said Kalman. “When we came over, people seemed to think we came from a shtetl. That always seemed interesting to me.”

“The Cosmopolitans” follows the Molochnik family and the marriage of its three daughters — a modern downsize from the musical’s five. It boldly begins by referencing Tolstoy’s oft-cited line, “Happy families are all alike,” and this inevitably unhappy family is comprised of one daughter who can’t help channeling the voice of Brezhnev, another who marries an exchange student from Bangladesh, making for some fun cross-cultural satire, and a third who finds herself engaged to — God forbid — a snooty Manhattanite.

Like Tevye, their poor, outnumbered father can’t even begin to understand them.

The title suggests the family’s attempt at worldliness, as well as makes a nod to Stalin’s anti-cosmopolitan campaign.

“I thought the title embodied the cross-cultural things going on in the book,” said Kalman. “I also thought it was funny that it was also the name of a fun drink here in the U.S.”

They certainly didn’t have those in Tevye’s world.  

Nadia Kalman reads from “The Cosmopolitans” at Sunny’s Bar [253 Conover St. between Beard and Reed streets in Red Hook, (718) 625-8211], Dec. 5 at 3 pm. Free. For info, visit


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