“My Name is Asher Lev,” now at George Street Playhouse (GSP), in New Brunswick, New Jersey, is a force with which to be reckoned. From the first moments of the play, I was riveted. Adapted by Aaron Posner from Chaim Potok’s powerful novel of the same name, “Asher Lev” has just three actors. Two of these play a myriad of characters, but there is only one Asher Lev. Miles G. Jackson, in the title role, makes this mid-century modern man a 21st century phenomenon.
The play runs about 90 minutes with no intermission and there are movements to it. It’s not a symphony, however, it’s a concerto with Asher Lev on solo Memory. Jackson’s devolution, starting as narrator, then becoming Lev’s six-year-old and other selves, is a beautiful challenge for an actor. Jackson is not only the six-year-old, but also the teen who struggles with hormones, as he attempts to separate his vision from prurient thought when confronted by a winsome female model, and the mature man whose reminiscence comes to life. Jackson’s Asher is subtly drawn and the nuances in his lightly accented speech somehow make everything he says more memorable. The wit and humor is so sharp that it’s only when you bleed that you feel what has been done. I plan to see it again before the end of the run—it’s that good.
Bob Ari, playing The Men, and Lena Kaminsky, as The Women, also have many challenges of their own. Ari segues from Asher’s father Aryeh, a learned scholar, to his uncle Yitzhok–so like his father, but with a spark of joie de vivre. When Ari becomes Jacob Kahn, the artist who “sculpts” Asher and releases him from convention, as Michelangelo released his David from marble, that’s when he really shines–he’s more than a father figure to Asher, more than a mentor.
Lena Kaminsky plays Rivkeh Lev with such love for her husband and her son that when Asher speaks of his “Brooklyn Crucifixion,” I found it impossible not to picture Rivkeh on that window, which speaks to the depth and beauty of the entire production. Combined with her portrayal of Anna Schaeffer, the gallery owner who recognizes the commercial value of Asher’s work and has the contacts to put him in the right places, it’s an actor’s challenge that she knocks right out of the park.
This powerhouse cast is directed by the dynamic Jim Jack, the Director of Education and Outreach for GSP. There is an equally powerful tech team, headed by R. Michael Miller, whose sere sets, reminiscent of a temple, also brings stumbling blocks to mind–but then we stumble when we learn to walk. Stephen Gabis’ dialect coaching is subtle and brilliant. David Murin’s costumes and Christopher Bailey’s lighting are spot on and Scott Killian’s soundscape sets the timbre from the first lighting cue and music notes.
Make an evening with this show, with all that New Brunswick has to offer! Remember that “Asher Lev” ends on May 1, so hurry and visit www.GeorgeStreetPlayhouse.org
today for the best seating!