Off Broadway Play Review - My Name is Asher Lev
I went to see My Name is Asher Lev - a new Off-Broadway play by Aaron Posner. Directed by Gordon Eldelstein. Having done absolutely no research on it, I was clueless of it being based on a novel by Chaim Potok: a new name to me, and an addition to my must-read list. I didn't also know the location of the Westside Theatre. It was my first time there. I was three minutes late for that reason.
The theater isn't fancy and I noticed it was about half full when I rushed in. The stage, is pretty cool: a setting to take us back to 1950s Brooklyn, then Manhattan. I thought things were mellow enough for me to eat my peanuts just as the play begun. I was wrong. Despite there being no old ushers wheezing about to give me the glaring eye, or what I have come to term "the whispered warning to a nincompoop," I lost much interest in by bag of roasted peanuts, quickly. By the way, eating peanuts in a quite theater is a sin. Only crazy peanut lovers can pretend otherwise, or not give a fig. My awesome friend almost regretted buying me those nuts.
After Ari Brand introduced himself as Asher Lev. I was engaged. Very much engaged. Brand has this voice that pulls you in very quickly. It's the perfect voice for a stubborn artist who gives up so much to become what he needs to be. His performance is simply outstanding. This story of a young Hasidic Jew on his artistic journey will keep your eyes wet. And your nose talkative. Bring a handkerchief.
It's a three crew-act and every one of them is amazing. I was especially impressed with Jenny Bacon as Rivkeh Lev: mother to Asher (and plays two more other roles). Mark Nelson is Aryeh Lev, father to Asher (and plays other roles too.)
Working to become an artist is often a farm of thorns. Having a talent that is self-redeeming is often times a curse, too, hence a source of immense frustration. Imagine, then, having to deal with a religion that sets very tight boundaries on what an artist can and cannot do, on top of everything. This play helps one see why some forsake their religion on the dusty roads to becoming artist. But, what if one insists on keeping one's religion? This is what makes My Name is Asher Lev intriguing. The Artist's refusal to part ways with his religion, and his insistence to let his art know no confinements. A paradox by all means. Want more? Read the NY Times review of the play here. It makes no reference to peanuts!