Sunday, April 22, 2018
Stage

'My Name Is Asher Lev' to open at American Stage

"It's poetic that a show about art takes place on a stage full of empty canvases," Chris Crawford says. "I think nothing would be as strong as what the audience creates in their minds."

Crawford plays the title role in American Stage's production of My Name Is Asher Lev, opening Friday. It's based on Chaim Potok's semi-autobiographical 1972 novel about a young man whose passion to express himself as a painter puts him at odds with his Hasidic Jewish family and community.

Aaron Posner's stage adaptation of the novel, still running off Broadway, won the 2012 Outer Critics Circle Award for playwriting. Posner streamlined the novel's complex plot and large cast for the play. "He's chosen to focus solely on Asher Lev," says T. Scott Wooten, the play's director.

Indeed, Crawford is the only cast member who plays a single character. Georgina McKee and Brian Webb Russell play all the other characters, including Asher's parents, his artistic mentor, a rabbi and a painter's model. "In a way they have a harder job," Crawford says. "They have to create all these different characters.

"It says something about the play, though, that the same actors play all these characters, because they sort of merge into parental figures for him."

Wooten says that despite the play's setting in post-World War II Brooklyn, it tells a universal story. "Even though this is an Orthodox Jewish family, if you grew up in any religious household you can understand it."

Crawford notes that the playwright describes it as a story about "when who you are is in direct conflict with your background."

My Name Is Asher Lev is a memory play, and much of it is narrative, with Asher sometimes entering scenes from the past, at other times describing them from the outside. That requires Crawford to play him at various ages, from 6 years old to mid 20s.

Crawford says that in Posner's notes on the play, "He says you should shy away from playing those (younger) ages, because it's hard for an audience to believe a 6-year-old being played by a 20-something. I try to conjure up that energy that a 6-year-old has."

Posner's notes also declare that Asher's paintings should never be shown, but left to the imagination. Still, preparation for the play involved plenty of art research. "T. Scott has printed off all these paintings, some mentioned in the play, some not, and hung them all over the rehearsal hall," Crawford says. "It's very interesting to be immersed in that."

The play also called for immersion in the history of Orthodox Judaism. "How do you research a religion that has existed for thousands of years and understand it by opening night?" Crawford says. "Well, you can't. But that's what actors do: We're trying to find someone else's life."

Colette Bancroft can be reached at [email protected] or (727) 893-8435.

Comments
The Holocaust connection that makes the Florida Orchestra’s Verdi ‘Requiem’ concert special

The Holocaust connection that makes the Florida Orchestra’s Verdi ‘Requiem’ concert special

The Florida Orchestra puts another exclamation point on its 50th season with Verdi’s Requiem, this weekend’s concert series, a major presentation of an iconic work. Composed by Giuseppe Verdi, Requiem debuted in 1874 but took on a new layer of signif...
Published: 04/19/18
Updated: 04/20/18
Freefall flavors 2018-2019 season with comedies and a pair of musicals

Freefall flavors 2018-2019 season with comedies and a pair of musicals

ST. PETERSBURG — In the coming season, Freefall Theatre is rolling out a world premiere, a different take on Christmas, a sharp comedy and a recent work by Pulitzer winner Lynn Nottage. The theme for the 2018-2019 season, "A Brighter Tomorrow," color...
Published: 04/19/18
Desi Oakley savors pie making in ‘Waitress,’ orchestra does Verdi’s Requiem

Desi Oakley savors pie making in ‘Waitress,’ orchestra does Verdi’s Requiem

HEAD WAITRESS: DESI OAKLEYThe blue collar mother who drives the plot of Waitress never thought she could win a pie-making contest, let alone start a business."She doesn’t even have the capacity to understand that she could do this," said Desi Oakley,...
Published: 04/18/18
American Stage sets the table for a splashy park musical ‘The Producers’

American Stage sets the table for a splashy park musical ‘The Producers’

ST. PETERSBURG ­— Think early evening, daylight saving version. The earth turning away, light fading in Demens Landing Park — everywhere except the stage, which is trying its best to resurrect midday. "It looks like New York City at nigh...
Published: 04/17/18
Updated: 04/18/18
Brooksville’s Live Oak Theatre presents ‘ReUnKnighted,’ a medieval misadventure

Brooksville’s Live Oak Theatre presents ‘ReUnKnighted,’ a medieval misadventure

BROOKSVILLE — How about a story about two knights who gain their knighthood, lose it, then gain it back, only to lose it again?That was the concept Kyle Marra pitched nearly three years ago to Randi Olsen, founder and creative director for the Live O...
Published: 04/17/18
Bilingual ‘In the Time of the Butterflies’ shines a light on brutal regime

Bilingual ‘In the Time of the Butterflies’ shines a light on brutal regime

TAMPA — Tampa made its cigars with indispensable help from Cuban immigrants. Today, 22 percent of the population is of Hispanic origin, as defined by the U.S. Census. The Tampa Bay area has increasingly and proudly defined itself as a thriving perfor...
Published: 04/16/18
Updated: 04/18/18
Review: ‘I’ll Be Back’ at Stage West mixes creepy with shocking

Review: ‘I’ll Be Back’ at Stage West mixes creepy with shocking

The murder mystery/thriller I’ll Be Back Before Midnight is loaded with potential. Playwright Peter Colley’s spooky, sometimes creepy, script has lots of surprises, scary moments and a few jokes to break the tension.And the production at Stage West C...
Published: 04/16/18
Updated: 04/17/18

Review: ‘Menopause the Musical’ brings the heat to Show Palace in Hudson

For years, Show Palace Dinner Theatre patrons have begged owners Vicki and Tommy Marasciullo to bring Menopause the Musical to their Hudson venue. To be sure, the longtime showbiz couple wanted to, and the 400+ sold-out crowd opening night, followed ...
Published: 04/16/18
Updated: 04/17/18
Monthly dessert theatre opens at CARES

Monthly dessert theatre opens at CARES

NEW PORT RICHEY — A collaborative agreement between CARES (Community Aging and Retirement Services) and local entertainer Jimmy Ferraro will bring Jimmy Ferraro’s Dessert Theatre, a series of monthly variety shows, to the CARES Elfers Center stage, 4...
Published: 04/16/18
New opera by Anton Coppola, 101, highlights Opera Tampa’s 2018-2019 season

New opera by Anton Coppola, 101, highlights Opera Tampa’s 2018-2019 season

TAMPA — Last year’s lavish 100th birthday party for composer and conductor Anton Coppola might have seemed like the capstone of a long career in opera. Turns out that Opera Tampa’s co-founder was not finished. The maestro’s latest opera, Lady Swanwhi...
Published: 04/14/18