MY NAME IS ASHER LEVBy Aaron Posner
Adapted from the novel by Chaim Potok
Outcry Theatre Company
Directed by Becca Johnson-Spinos
Technical Director – Jimilee Rempe
Projection Design – Jason Johnson-Spinos
Lighting Design – Jason Johnson-Spinos
Sound Design – Jason Johnson-Spinos
Costume Design – Gabrielle Grafrath
Dramaturg – Tia Sukenik
Asher Lev – Bryce Lederer
The Men (Aryeh Lev/Yitzchok Lev/Jacob Kahn/The Rebbe) – Eddie Lederer
The Women (Rivkey Lev/Anna Schaeffer/Rachel) – Kimberly Winnubst
Reviewed Performance: 6/9/2017
Reviewed by Angela Newby, Associate Critic for John Garcia's THE COLUMN
My Name is Asher Lev follows the journey of a young Jewish painter torn between his Hassidic upbringing and his desperate need to fulfill his artistic promise. Through this journey, Asher’s internal conflict becomes external and the talent and skills of the cast show the passion of the novel by Chaim Potok. Where does one find their identity, and then once it is found, what do we do with it? Potok and Outcry Theatre answer this question in this amazing production.
One of the highlights of the production was the attention to detail that Director Becca Johnson-Spinos took to always hold true to the integrity of the Jewish background of the script. Dramaturg Tia Sukenik lent her expertise in Jewish traditions and pronunciation to uplift the play to another dimension. Becca Johnson-Spinos has brought together a cast that worked seamlessly together to allow the audience not only to view the show, but feel an emotional connection to Asher Lev through his journey.
Jason Johnson-Spinos created the Projection, Lighting, and Sound Design. While the Projection was used sparingly throughout the play, it added depth and soul to the production. The use of the shadowed ancestor was haunting and showed the significance of family lineage. Sound design was filled with elements that were precise and perfectly timed. The shrill ringing of the phone that will bring a twist to the script was startling and emphasized the acting on stage. Lighting was by far my favorite technical element of the show. The color scheme was perfectly consistent from the beginning to end to help not only transition the movements, but shift the tone of the scene. Red lighting signified anger, loss of control, and conflict, purple was a sense of reflection, and blue was the main lighting which softens the acting on stage and flows naturally within each scene. The set was physically demanding for the cast to move the pieces to where they belonged throughout the play. There were multiple times throughout the production that the moving of the set allowed Bryce Lederer to continue to show the frustration of his character. The set consisted of a kitchen table, a side table, desk, bookshelf with paint supplies and books, and the large window of the home. The window was comprised of two twenty paneled frames that emphasized the depth of emotion of what loss means to the play.
Costume Design by Gabrielle Grafrath brilliantly matched each character. This was scene especially with the roles of The Men and The Women where the distinction of characterization was easily identified even if the modification was slight. The Men all wore black slacks with a white button down shirt. While Aryeh Lev wore a three piece suit, Yitzchok Lev wore a blue suit jacket, while artist Jacob Kahn was dressed in a painter’s smock. The Women on the other hand were perfectly matched with the personality of the character within the coloring and design of the dress. Rivkey Lev, the mom, wore a brown floral dress with a tan cardigan that was understated and emphasized her submissive role of wife and mom. Anna Schaeffer, the art dealer, was dressed in a maroon dressed that was stylish and fitted and showed her power in the art world. Rachel, the nude model wore a floral kimono. Asher Lev wore grey slacks, a white button down shirt and a green sweater vest that held true to his roots, and to the professional artist that he would become. Each male wore a yamaka to show the Hassidic heritage and being a devout Jew. Grafrath’s attention to detail was exceptional and the costumes were well done.
Asher Lev was played by Bryce Lederer and was remarkable. Lederer’s raw passion flowed from every ounce of his being and was breath taking. Every single monologue dripped with authenticity and Lederer’s eyes were the window to Asher’s emotions. As Asher was berated by his father, Lederer physically withdraws into himself and accentuates the strained relationship between father and son. Lederer was able to shift on a dime throughout the script as Asher works through his journey of who he was and who he was to become. This was evident through his facial expressions and tones which would easily move between detached to crazed and everything in between. Bryce Lederer is a young man that is only as the beginning of his acting career and is on his way to changing the world through his art.
Eddie Lederer was vibrant as the Men. Each role was different through vocals and body language. Lederer as Aryeh, the father, was demanding and harsh which was highlighted through his jabbing finger and critical tone. For Yitzchok Lev (the Uncle), Lederer changes his whole demeanor to pride and cheerfulness as Yitzchok encourages Asher to continue his pursuit as an artist while a young boy. The Rebbe was characterized with his drawn out diction that highlights his role in society of honor and power. Jacob Kahn was the artist that taught Asher Lev how to hone his craft. While there was little difference between Kahn and Aryeh through characterization, Lederer identifies both differently with his eyes. As the father they are piercing and judgmental, while as Kahn they are passionate and relentless to see Asher strive to be all that he can be as an artist. Eddie Lederer put on a fantastic performance.
Kimberly Winnubst played the women of the play. Rachel, the nude model, was shown through Winnubst’s use of confident moves to emphasize her job. Anna Schaeffer was an art gallery owner, and Winnubst nailed this through her pursed lips, raised eyebrows, and discerning eyes as she reviewed Asher’s works. Yet it was as Rivkey Lev, the mother that Winnubst shined. Through the wringing of Winnubst’s hands, the nerves were evident, as was her frustration as she raised her voice to Asher and put a calm hand on Aryeh’s shoulder to calm the tension of the scene. The most chilling moment though was the hauntingly beautiful way that Winnubst portrayed the grief of Rivkey. Winnubst brought to the stage a dynamic performance that complemented the other actors.
Asher Lev states in the play, “Art is a way of communication, sharing with the world.” Outcry Theatre does just this with this show, they have put on a production that shares the essence of art to the world, an element that is so easy to miss in the day to day commotion, and makes one realize the significance of staying true to oneself. My Name is Asher Lev is a journey of one young man and his desire to follow his artistic talent, but in reality is a journey the audience takes to not only respect our own heritage, but forge ahead with who we are created to be.
Studio Theatre, Addison Theatre Centre, 15650 Addison Rd., Addison, TX 75001
Runs through June 18th
Performances are on Friday and Saturday at 7:30pm and Saturday and Sunday Matinees at 2:00pm. There is an additional matinee at 2:00pm on Saturday June 17.
Tickets prices are $10 for General Admission and $20 for Premium Reserved Seating. There is a service charge for ordering tickets online or you may purchase them at the door.
For tickets and information, go to www.outcrytheatre.com or call the box office at 972-836-7206.