Two of my favorite Chaim Potok stories are The Chosen and My Name Is Asher Lev. Both books were adapted for the stage by playwright Aaron Posner. The later play, with Stephen Sachs directing, is now being featured at the Fountain Theatre (5060 Fountain, Los Angeles.)
Potok, who grew up in an Orthodox Jewish home, took advantage of his upbringing to enliven his stories with personal antidotes. The story, which takes full advantage of the back ground, covers a twenty year span and revolves around young Asher Lev (Jason Karasev), who, early on, discovers his talent for art. It is highly discouraged by his family (Anna Khaja plays his mother Rivkeh) especially when he starts drawing nudes and pictures of the crucifixion especially since he is not studying the Torah or Talmud as his father (Joel Polis) wants him to do.
Only the intercession of the Rebbe, the community's rabbinical leader, giving Asher his blessing and hooking him up with another artist, Jacob Kahn, to train him in the non-religious world of art.
There is smoking and some nudity in the play.
The talented Jason Karasev played both the young Asher as well as the older Asher, bringing tears to the eyes of the audience in his stark portrayal of a torn young man, while Joel Polis managed an easy transition not only as the father, but as the Rebbe, the artist Jacob, the brother and other men in Asher's life. Anna Khaja, too, showed the wide variety of her talents in both Rivkeh, Rachel and Anna.
Posner's version of My Name Is Asher Lev, a recipient of the Edgerton Foundation New American Plays, was commissioned by Philadelphia's Arden Theatre Company and premiered there to standing ovation in 2009. Recently, it appeared at the New York's Westside Theatre and earned the 2012-13 Outer Critics Circle Award for Outstanding New Off-Broadway Play and the John Gassner Memorial Playwriting Award.
Set design is by Jeff McLaughlin while Ric Zimmerman did the effective lighting and original music and sound were done by Lindsay Jones. Shon LeBlanc did the costumes while Diane Martinous did the wigs. Misty Carlisle managed the props while Tyler Seiple was perfect as the accent coach. The production stage manager was Terri Roberts. The play was produced by Deborah Lawlor and Simon Levy.
Jewish or not, this moving culturally diverse play, which runs through April 19th, 2014, is one that you don't want to miss. Times are Thursday, Friday and Saturdays at 8pm and Sundays at 2 pm. Thursday and Fridays, seniors over 65 and students with ID have a special discount ($25.) Reserved tickets are $34. On site, secure parking is available for $5. The Fountain theatre is wheelchair accessible and air conditioned. For reservations and information call 323 663 1525323 663 1525 or go online to The Fountain Theatre. The two story building, which houses the theatre, is located at Fountain and Normandie.