BWW Review: MY NAME IS ASHER LEV at Cherry Creek Theatre
Art, as we know, is subjective. It can also be beautiful, controversial, awe-inspiring, or sometimes all of the above. But what happens when art comes between religion and family? In the current production at Cherry Creek Theatre, My Name is Asher Lev, a boy learns these struggles at an early age, but doesn't understand what they mean until it's too late.
Torn between his Hasidic upbringing and the need to fulfill his artistic promise, Asher Lev is caught between two worlds. Relationships with his parents, community and mentor are all on the line as the prodigy realizes he must make a difficult choice between art and faith. This adaptation of Chaim Potok's stirring novel presents a heartbreaking and triumphant vision of identity and what it means to be an artist.
In the intimate black-box theater space, My Name is Asher Lev finds a perfect home. The set design is the perfect balance between a visual art fantasy and realistic home/art studio. The use of the space throughout the show is well-balanced, without favoring any certain part of the stage. As you can imagine, art is a central theme throughout the show. At various times, our leading man, Asher, is on the floor, seated at the table, or standing at the easel working on various pictures and paintings. My one criticism here is that due to the intimacy of the space, it was obvious he wasn't actually working on anything. Towards the end of the show, two pieces of art come to be the most important of the show and it would have been a unique touch to have the actor actually working on them throughout the show. Perhaps they could have been pre-sketched and all he had to do was paint accordingly. In any case, more certainly could have been done besides blank sheets of paper.
The small ensemble of three have really outdone themselves. With Josh Levy as all the male characters, Christy Kruzick as all the female characters, and Josue Ivan Prieto as Asher Lev himself, the players interact well amongst each other, even as the two former actors switch between a plethora of characters. At first I was worried that Kruzick and Levy wouldn't produce enough of a difference between characters, but I was soon put at ease as the show moved forward. Prieto as young Asher is a certain delight. He portrays a boy-turned-young-man who from an early age has quite the curiosity about the world around him and is unwilling to back down when confronted by his parents and other mentors. Prieto is at home in the role.
With anti-semitism seeming to gain some sort of resurgence in the United States, productions such as My Name is Asher Lev are becoming much more important in terms of representation. The events in Pittsburgh on October 27, 2018 are not to be taken lightly and certainly not forgotten. We must all strive not towards tolerance, but true acceptance. Art, as we know, is subjective. Life, as we must remember, is precious.
My Name is Asher Lev plays at the Mizel Arts and Culture Center through November 11, 2018. For tickets, visit https://cherrycreektheatre.org/production/my-name-is-asher-lev/.
Photo Courtesy of Cherry Creek Theatre