Reviewed by Judy Richter
Growing up is never easy, especially when one is the son of devout Hasidic Jews and when one is an enormously talented artist. That's the essence of "My Name is Asher Lev," written by Aaron Posner and based on a novel by Chaim Potok. Presented by Marin Theatre Company, this engrossing play takes the title character, played by Peter Stadlen, from the age of 6, when he loved to draw, to young manhood and artistic acclaim.
Asher's parents, portrayed by Danielle Levin and Patrick McNulty, try to steer him away from art and toward a more religious life, a life like that led by his father, who traveles extensively to do the good work of the rebbe, the leader of their sect. But Asher can't deny his artistic impulses, which lead him to see things in terms of light, shape and angles. His discovery of Christian works and nudes is ever more disconcerting to his parents, but Asher is irresistibly drawn to them. As he becomes more successful as an artist, his impulses finally lead him to choose between following them or hurting his parents, whom he loves.
Directed by Hal Brooks, this one-act play runs slightly more than 80 minutes, yet it covers a wide range of emotions and events. Stadlen remains onstage throughout the show, while his colleagues get some breaks to transform themselves into other characters, aided by Callie Floor's costumes. Set designer Melpomene Katakalos keeps things simple with the action taking place beneath a wooden star of David with only a table and three chairs as set pieces. The lighting is by York Kennedy, the music and sound by Chris Houston.
This well-acted, well-directed play has proved so popular in its first performances that it has been extended for a week. It deserves to be, giving more people a chance to see it, enjoy it and think about it.