Regional Reviews: Connecticut & the Berkshires
Also see Fred's review of Lady Randy
Sobel speaks to the audience directly throughout the piece, and this actor's warmth and authority command the stage. His costars also do quite well also, with versatile work by Stefanie Londino and Dan Shor playing all the other characters in the show. Director Joseph Discher lends a careful eye and good pacing, making the production a real pleasure.
On David Lewis' spare yet effective set, My Name is Asher Lev goes back and forth in time in showing how the title character came to realize that he must become an artist, despite all objections. Sobel is excellent at delineating the various ages Asher is at different points in the story, from a six-year-old boy learning to draw, to a determined adult. What's more, a large part of what makes this show work so well is this actor's connection to the audience. Asher Lev's passion is almost contagious and one can't help but root for him.
Largely playing Asher's mother, Stephanie Londino is entirely persuasive as a Hasidic woman, trying to do her best with both her son and her faith. Londino displays her range by also believably portraying a hard-driven art gallery owner who can open doors for Asher. Dan Shor is even better. Throughout the play, he switches between playing Asher Lev's sometimes frustrated father and the polar-opposite role of Jacob, a successful artist and teacher who demands Asher's best in becoming a painter. Shor is so good in these two parts that one could almost believe the parts are played by two different actors.
In addition to eliciting fine performances from his trio of performers, Discher works terrifically with his designers. The set is skillfully lit by lighting designers Joseph Beumer and Justin Dudzik, especially in an astonishing moment late in the show when the stage forms an unexpected religious image. The costumes by Lisa Steier are appropriate and quite good. Indeed, everything about this production rings true from beginning to end.
My Name is Asher Lev runs ninety minutes, and it seems to fly by, thanks to the contributions by everyone involved. What makes this Playhouse on Park production most successful, though, is the way it displays how one must follow one's dreams, no matter what obstacles may block them. Aaron Posner is able to convey that transcendentally in My Name is Asher Lev, and this show is all the richer for it.
My Name is Asher Lev, through May 12, 2019, at Playhouse on Park, 244 Park Rd., West Hartford CT. For tickets, please visit www.playhouseonpark.org or call the box office at 860-523-5900.