By Lynn Geyer
“My Name is Asher Lev.” It’s a simple statement simply stated by the leading character in Aaron Posner’s adaptation of the Chaim Potok novel.
“My Name is Asher Lev.” It’s a very complex statement which questions the way parents deal with a young prodigy who insists on straying from his orthodox Jewish background to venture into the world of art.
“My Name is Asher Lev” is the current theatrical offering at The Lakewood Playhouse.
It is the dynamic telling of a story of the plight of this young artist’s struggle with his Hasidic background and his love for the world of art.
Asher searches for acknowledgement from his father, an emissary of the Rebbe, who travels the world in his name. Asher seeks understanding from his mother, who after surviving the shock of the death of her brother, rises from the cloistered existence of the subservient wife to take her place next to her husband working for the Rebbe.
As Asher grows from the 8-year-old sketcher to fame and fortune in adulthood, the rift between his parents and him grows wider until his art finally causes the couple, immersed in tradition, to estrange themselves from their only son.
This poignant tale is professionally presented by the small cast of three plus one.
Jeffrey Alan Smith is Asher. Smith takes on the persona of the artist at various stages of his life. At the age of eight, he is a proud, quizzical child; at 10, he is a bit stronger in his searching manner; and as a youth, he takes on the ability of making the decision between his background and his chosen life. Smith does a truly admirable job in his interpretation of the role.
Elliot Weiner plays The Men, who include the somewhat distant, though loving father, the encouraging uncle, the Rebbe, and the art teacher who helps mold Asher. Weiner is excellent in each part. He has developed such well-defined characters, it is sometimes difficult to remember that it is the same man doing each.
Paige Hansen plays The Women. She is the loving, almost understanding mother, the nude model and the gallery proprietor who features Asher’s paintings, which she sells for high, undisclosed amounts – even to museums. Hansen portrays the mother with empathy and realism, pride and disbelief – a very nice performance.
The “plus one” is Leslie Foley, who plays violin accompaniment of her self-composed music during the performance.
This story of the young man who is both blessed and haunted by an unusual gift is expertly directed by Lakewood Playhouse Managing Artistic Director Marcus Walker.
Walker says that he has been drawn to this property since he was a young man of 19 when he read the novel. He explains that the literary work offered him an answer to his own questioning mind of mixing his Christian ministry with his love for the theatre and his desire to make it his life’s work.
Walker has immersed himself in the project, giving it every ounce of love and devotion he could muster while battling stage 4 metastasized melanoma.
His devotion to the project paid off in an excellent production.
Walker is ably assisted by a well-rounded team of technical staff. Naarah R. McDonald is the Stage Manager; Rebecca Osman is Assistant Director; Henry Loughman the Scenic Designer; and Lauren Walker the Costume Designer. Mark Thomason did lights and Alexander Smith did sound. Each lent their expertise to the production.
“My Name is Asher Lev” continues at the Lakewood Playhouse in the northeast section of the Lakewood Towne Center, next to the Pierce Transit Depot, through March 20 at 8 p.m. Fridays and Saturdays with 2 p.m. matinees Sundays. There is a Pay-What-You-Can performance Thursday March 3 at 8 p.m. and an actor’s benefit matinee Saturday, March 12, at 2 p.m.
For more information or to make reservations call the theatre at (253) 588-0042 or go online to www.lakewoodplayhouse.org.
Asher Lev did what he had to do because he refused to be left incomplete. For a complete evening of good theatre, don’t miss this excellent production.