How has "My Name is Asher Lev" never been made into a movie? The novel by Chaim Potok, about a young Hassidic Jew who becomes a controversial and successful fine artist (painting crucifixations of all things) is one of those mainstays of primary education so you'd think that there would be a movie. Most of those get-em-while-they're-young classic novels can claim multiple film versions. But there's only been runs at the stage. I recently saw a new adaptation by Aaron Posner at the Westside Theater.
The production was minimally staged but the set was a moody beauty. The night I attended the understudy for the female roles (there are only three actors in the production) went on. Turns out she was Chaim Potok's actual daughter! Imagine that.
Ari Brand was constantly on the stage in the title role but adeptly swung around between various ages from little boy to grown man to track Asher Lev's artistic awakening and simultaneous emancipation from and acceptance of his faith. But the chameleon in the cast was Mark Nelson who plays quite a few characters including Asher's father and is particularly memorable as his jovial uncle and Asher's mentor artists who speaks largely in manifestos about what art is and how artists should live. Asher's struggle couldn't be more specific (a Jew painting Christian iconography) but the themes are wildly flexible to any coming of age or coming into one's own spiritual or ideological journey which is surely why people love it when they're young.
It's Your Last Chance: My Name is Asher Lev plays through September 1st at the West Side Theater.
Movies and TV Moving to the Musical Stage
Playbill warns that there's a GLEE stage musical in the works? God Antoinette Perry help us all. We've really gone over the top and back down again with the cross pollination of mediums. In September HONEYMOON IN VEGAS hits Paper Mill in Jersey and over in Boston at the Huntington Theater Company they're launching Disney's THE JUNGLE BOOK which is aiming for Broadway (eventually) and one supposes they're dreaming of another Julie-Taymor-does-Lion-King size hit. Here's a Making Of with director Mary Zimmerman, whose biggest hit Metamorphosis was so good. Let's hope she doesn't fall into the Julie Taymor trap of not being able to edit herself. Bostonian readers who've seen the show do tell us what you thought!
And did any of you get a chance to see the final Shakespeare in the Park for the season: Love's Labour's Lost? I'm still humming this particular show stopper.
Heavy rotation on my playlists.