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Review: My Name is Asher Lev

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3 stars

Phoenix Theatre, Frank & Katrina Basile Theatre; directed by Martha Jacobs. My Name Is Asher Lev, adapted from the novel by Chaim Potok (The Chosen), shows us how close and also how closed a community can be. Growing up in a post-World War II Brooklyn Hasidic community, the title character discovers that loving art will mean constantly defending it. The boy's art is a dangerous puzzle to his father, who is working tirelessly for the community's spiritual leader to defend the Jewish faith in America and around the world. Pitting art against faith and duty to oneself against duty to community, their story has many poignant moments, especially between the conflicted Asher (John Michael Goodson) and his driven parents (played well by Wendy Farber and Bill Simmons). Unfortunately, playwright Aaron Posner relies too heavily on direct address to describe Asher's paintings and feelings about them and director Martha Jacobs does little to lift the text through the theatrical arts. The sentimental violin music and the apartment set, decorated in browns and orange, reflect Asher's struggle, but not his vision. The drawing paper spilled on his bed and the empty frames on a wall signify art, but again, not vision. Moving from his bedroom stage right to the family dining room center stage and the studio stage left, Asher seems more pawn than artist and, My Name Is Asher Lev seems more a performed novel than a true play. Through Nov. 21. 635-2381; www.phoenixtheatre.org.

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