Review: My Name Is Asher Lev (Eternity Playhouse)

asherlev1Venue: Eternity Playhouse (Darlinghurst NSW), May 8 – 29, 2016
Playright: Aaron Posner (from the novel by Chaim Potok)
Director: Moira Blumenthal
Cast: Annie Byron, Tim McGarry, John O’Hare
Image by Blumenthal Photography

Theatre review
We meet Asher Lev from the time he discovers a talent for drawing, and follow his journey from prodigy to established artist. It is a short time getting to success, but the lessons he learns are profound, and writers Aaron Posner and Chaim Potok do an excellent job of sharing those wisdoms in the story. The theme is one that we all have to grapple with, some more often than others, but it is nonetheless universal; we must identify a true and authentic self, and live accordingly. Young Lev’s sense of authenticity is frequently at odds with the life his parents had envisioned for him, but it is that negotiation between forces that allows him to thrive as an artist and more significantly, develop into an independent autonomous being.

Direction by Moira Blumenthal is tender and melancholic, with detailed attention placed on family dynamics that are central to Lev’s experience of the world. The characters are believable and we relate to their psyches easily, but the production needs greater dynamism with its rhythm, and a more pronounced sense of humour to achieve variances in mood and tone between scenes. The role of the young artist is played by John O’Hare who although lacks the adolescent energy required, depicts acute emotional accuracy in order that we understand all the nuances of his conflicts and challenges. More compelling is Tim McGarry in a range of paternalistic parts who brings colour and surprising vibrancy to the show. Annie Byron is convincing as Lev’s mother, and chemistry between all three is beautifully forged for a show that makes a poignant statement about the complexities of family, history and individual fulfilment.

Whether we grow up to be copies of our parents, or turn out to only be partially similar to family members, there is no doubt that blood ties have a deep influence on the people that we become. As a child turns into an adult, they should be given choices and importantly, the strength to make them. We wish the best for our offspring, but they must become their own persons, and there comes a time when father no longer knows best. The world evolves, and it develops in directions that may not always be pleasing. When things become unbearable, we can call upon faith, and trust that something bigger than our own minds has great designs in mysterious ways, beyond our ability to currently comprehend.