Saturday, March 19, 2011

My Name is Asher Lev

My Name is Asher Lev
by Roger Smith

Simply put, this play at The Cleveland Play House about an artist who survives his conflict with tradition, custom, and expectations is a masterpiece. It is a learning piece through which the audience is made aware of what the cost of being an artist in Goyim and Christian Goyim is for an observant Jew - a Hasidic Jew. Written by Aaron Posner, this take on Chaim Potok’s book is true to the theme in the hard copy.
Noel Joseph Allain not only portrays Asher, but narrates the show by having conversations with the audience. Allain’s portrayal of the title character is outstanding.
He is picture-perfect in his attempt to dispel the myths associated with the artist’s journey through all the things that were important to him and his attempt to balance and yet defy those same things, including his mother’s desire for him to “make the world pretty.”
Tom Alan Robbins plied his craft as he played 4 different roles in this production. As Asher’s father he was superb, and he maintained that level in each of his additional portrayals - especially that of art mentor Jacob Kahn.
Elizabeth Raetz went from mother to gallery owner to nude artist’s model in her contribution to the success of this show. Raetz was convincing with her interpretations, but they lacked the ‘oomph’ demonstrated by the other actors. Her accented voice did not convey the same power as that when the men spoke. Nonetheless, she got her points across.
“My Name is Asher Lev” is shown on the Baxter Stage of The Cleveland Play House, the most intimate of theaters at the East 85th Street location. It would not have worked in any other Play House venue. The show runs through April 3, and is well worth the drive into the city. Tickets may be ordered by phoning the box office at 216-795-7000 or at


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