MY NAME IS ASHER LEV -- Tradition versus Art
By Bob and Karen Isaacs
BOB: Long Wharf is concluding its main stage season with an excellently acted and fascinating work, My Name Is Asher Lev, based on the novel by Chaim Potock. I was fascinated by it, because it dramatized the trouble that artists have not only within a social world but with family. As a James Joycean, the issue of using family and friends in creative work, not necessarily flatteringly, is one that poses dilemmas for the artist.
KAREN: Asher Lev is a young man with a true artistic calling who is torn between his deeply observant Hasidic Jewish community and his passionate need to paint. When Asher runs afoul of his family and tradition by attempting to embrace his gift, he is forced to make difficult choices.
BOB: The adaptation by Aaron Posner captures the struggle between art and family and community. This is stressed by the fact that in the observant Jewish families, art is not looked on as one of the great creative outlets. It's pointed out in the play that there are very few great Jewish artists; Marc Chagall is one of the few.
KAREN: Gordon Edelstein has directed a three person cast. Ari Brand is the young Asher Lev -- who also serves as narrator of the piece. Brand is called upon to move from early childhood to adulthood. He captures the struggle of the artist trying to come to terms with his culture and his talent and the conflicts between them.
BOB: Melissa Miller plays the mother caught between her son and her husband, who works for the rebbe. She also plays several other roles.
KAREN: Mark Nelson has two main roles -- he plays the father who is deeply observant and cannot really accept his son’s need to paint. But he plays the older, less observant artist who trains Asher and indoctrinates him into the art world.
BOB: This is truly a coming of age story about a talented artist. You don't have to be Jewish to understand the struggle both by Asher Lev and his parents.
KAREN: My Name Is Asher Lev is at Long Wharf through May 27.
This review aired on WNHU-FM 88.7 and www.wnhu.net