Douglas E. Stark as Teyve in "Fiddler on the Roof" at Beef & Boards in Indianapolis.
Watching someone ply their craft with gusto never fails to bring a smile to my face as I absorb myself in their zeal.
That's why I've always been a sucker for hustling baseball players like Nellie Fox or Lenny Dykstra or Ryan Freel. Special teams football guys like Steve Tasker and Pat McAfee. Everyman actors like Steve Buscemi.
They obviously enjoy what they're doing, regardless of when, where or how they're doing it.
And so it is with Douglas E. Stark, longtime patriarch of the Beef & Boards operation at Indianapolis.
Not only does the 66-year-old Stark own the place, but he loves to act, and his favorite role is as Tevye, the conflicted milkman raising five daughters in the tiny village of Anatevka in the theater classic "Fiddler on the Roof."
"Fiddler" is one of those shows theater-goers often experience multiple times. And while I've been "Oklahoma"-ed out and "Sound of Music" deafened over the years, "Fiddler" keeps me coming back despite the familiarity of the story and music.
In fact, the current production, which runs through Nov. 23, is the sixth time Beef & Boards has produced the play in its 41-year tenure at Michigan Avenue and I-465 on the north side of Indianapolis. Stark has been Tevye in most, if not all of those runs.
And I've seen "Fiddler" at just about all levels -- as a movie (with someone known as Topol as Tevye), as high school and college plays, as a Putnam County Playhouse musical and even listened to an ex-wife proudly boast of playing Tevya in her middle school play.
Yet nobody plays the role with more zest and confidence and fun than Stark.
His performance steals the show, even while dealing with the constraints of creating an entire village upon the friendly confines of a small stage in the center of the dining room at Beef & Boards.
And hey, how they ever produced that dance scene a few years back for "Seven Brides for Seven Brothers" still amazes me every time I see a show there. Imagine 14 people dancing, kicking and jumping atop picnic tables in precision ... I digress.
Again last Saturday night I was fortunate to see "Fiddler" and had an absolutely wonderful evening. Granted, the fabulous company I kept may have been responsible for some of that.
But we left smiling, humming "If I Were a Rich Man" all the way back to Greencastle.
And while that song is probably the closest I'll ever get to being a rich man, its spirit undeniably enriched me again.
Thanks to Douglas E. Stark.