NEW BRUNSWICK, NJ—“My Name is Asher Lev,” the story of a Jewish artist who must choose between his faith and his art, is playing at the George Street Playhouse through May 1.
The play is based off of Chaim Potok's best-selling book of the same name. It follows the childhood and early adulthood of Asher Lev, set in a Hasidic Jewish community in post-war Brooklyn.
It stars Miles G. Jackson as Asher, Bob Ari stars as Aryeh, Asher's father, the Rebbe, the leader of the Jewish community, and Jacob Kahn, Asher's art-world mentor. Lena Kaminsky stars as Rivkeh, Asher's mother, a gallery owner, and a model.
At the time the play is set, most of Europe's Hasidic Jewish population had just been killed in the Holocaust. Asher's father is a missionary of sorts, traveling Europe to organize Jewish community centers and establish Chabad houses.
Aryeh assumes that his son will join him for this mission, but Asher refuses. Aryeh also cannot fathom the important of art in Asher's life. Rivkeh is caught in between the two.
"My Name is Asher Lev" has no intermission and has very little change in set decor when moving from setting to setting; it feels like one long, continuous life story.
The play, though deeply emotional, still earned some laughs. Jackson in particular delivered some of the best one-liners, especially as a very young Asher.
Although the subject of the play was a Hasidic Jew, the struggle between family and outside forces is one that many people can relate to. The excellent cast made it so that the struggle was about relatable family issues, not necessarily Jewish issues.
Also, Ari and Kaminsky seamlessly transformed between the different characters they portrayed throughout the play.
"My Name is Asher Lev" was written by Aaron Posner. Posner is the co-founder and resident director of the Arden Theatre Company in Philadelphia. He has directed over 40 productions during his career, including the world premiere of "My Name is Asher Lev."
This production was directed by Jim Jack, the Director of Education and Outreach for George Street Playhouse. It was his first time directing for the George Street Playhouse mainstage.
Tickets start at $25 and can be purchased at the Playhouse's website.