My Name is Asher Lev – thought provoking and damn good acting!
Almost as far back as he can remember, Asher Lev loved to draw! With crayons, smearing ash on paper, he loved to create images of the souls around him. Most would laud a child such as this but…Asher Lev was a Hasidic Jew. This is not something widely accepted within the fold and got Asher into plenty of trouble with his community and, particularly, with his parents. Convinced it is the Sitra Achra at work here, there starts a constant tug-of-war between those of ancient beliefs and that of youth.
As he grew older it became quite clear that, although he fully understood the beliefs of those around him, also his beliefs (he prayed three times a day and kept kosher), he still had to draw. What became a battle between him and his parents (although at different points both his parents do recognize his innate talent) eventually had him called before the Rebbe. Wise beyond all, he understood that nothing was going to stand in the way of the boy releasing the feelings, the torment within, and he arranged for him to have a mentor, another ‘painter’, another Jew.
What unfolds on stage is nothing short of the miracle of life. That moment when you realize you are here for a reason, that you have a passion and you must fight for that passion to grow and release itself. The torment within, that the boy is battling, is real, is painful and…goes beyond that of the Jewish faith. So many cultures, so many beliefs, so many parents have expectations drawn from their backgrounds that their children cannot totally adhere to.
The acting by three actors, two of whom play multiple roles, is outstanding.
Ellen David as ‘the women’ is simply wonderful to watch – she digs down deeply and speaks through her eyes, with her heart, as the mother, Rivkeh, and as a sister, with her business acumen as the gallery owner, Anna Schaeffer, and her playful soul as the nude model, Rachel. That’s quite a stretch.
Alex Poch-Goldin as ‘the men’ is equally exciting – as Aryeh Lev he is stern yet beneath that, one senses a gentle man. His creation of Jacob Kahn, the artist, is a blast of fresh air – outgoing, with no-holds-barred, as the Rebbe, crouched over a desk, he is all knowing.
Both David and Poch-Goldin have created well rounded characters for all roles performed – That creation goes well beyond donning a wig or hat!
David Reale as Asher has no problem reaching out to the audience and causing it to react – He is just so very good as Asher –
Finally, just as his parents are beginning to accept his chosen profession, Asher commits to drawing a piece on canvas that his parents are appalled with, hurt by.
Hence, the tug of war between the traditional expectations of parents and a young man’s desire are fired, again.
The play is artfully directed by Steven Schipper who has clearly allowed those on stage the freedom to use their imagination.
The set by Martin Ferland, is simple, and functional. In shades of off-whites and canvas colours, it is put to good use by the actors, who turn tables, move canvases into place to be used to disappear behind only to return as another character. Hugh Connacher’s lighting serves the moments created on stage beautifully.
This is the ultimate in theatre, nothing extravagant, nothing wasted, just damn good acting.
What an excellent night of theatre – what a grande start to the season for the Segal!
My Name is Asher Lev is on at the Segal Theatre until October 2.
For more information: http://www.segalcentre.org
Box Office: 514-739-7944
By: Sharman Yarnell – mtltimes.ca