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Art vs. faith in L.A. premiere of ‘My Name is Asher Lev’ at Fountain

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A young painter must reconcile his remarkable artistic gifts with the austerity and singular devotion required by his faith. Stephen Sachs directs the Los Angeles premiere of Aaron Posner’s award-winning stage adaptation of Chaim Potok’s acclaimed novel, “My Name is Asher Lev,” opening February 22, 2014 at the Fountain Theatre.

Set in Brooklyn’s Hasidic Jewish community, “Asher Lev” is the powerful story of a young painter’s struggle to become an artist at any cost – against the will of his parents, community and tradition. Exploring questions of art, family, religion and loyalty, this extraordinary adaptation is a compelling look at the cost of individuality.

“This is a play about the struggle to discover and be who you are,” says Sachs. “Sometimes who you are is in conflict with your family and your community. Art has the power to destroy as well as to heal. What do you do when you know that the art you create might hurt the people you love?”

In Posner’s highly theatrical and fluid adaptation, a cast of three brings the story to life. Jason Karasev stars in the title role. The many characters who influence and inspire Asher Lev on his journey — parents, teachers, mentors and friends — will be created by Ovation and L.A. Weekly Award-winning actress Anna Khaja and LADCC-nominated Joel Polis.

Posner, who had previously worked with Potok on adapting his novel “The Chosen” for the stage, found “My Name Is Asher Lev” to be deeply rooted in Potok’s own life story.

“Many think of it as his most emotionally autobiographical novel and the fact that it is told in the first person and covers more than 20 years made it a particular challenge for adaptation,” he said in an interview.

Aaron Posner's adaptation of “My Name is Asher Lev” is the recipient of the Edgerton Foundation New American Plays Award. It was commissioned by Philadelphia’s Arden Theatre Co. and premiered there in 2009. A recent production at New York’s Westside Theatre earned the 2012-13 Outer Critics Circle Award for Outstanding New Off-Broadway Play and the John Gassner Memorial Playwriting Award.

“My Name is Asher Lev” previews 8 p.m. Friday, February 21, opens 8 p.m. Saturday, February 22, and performs 8 p.m. Thursday, Friday and Saturday and 2 p.m. Sunday through April 19 (dark March 15, March 16 and April 5). Tickets are $34 (reserved seating), except previews which are $20. On Thursdays and Fridays only, seniors over 65 and students with ID are $25. Call 323-663-1525 or visit www.FountainTheatre.com.

The Fountain Theatre is located at 5060 Fountain Avenue (at Normandie) in Los Angeles. Secure, on-site parking is available for $5. The Fountain Theatre is air-conditioned and wheelchair accessible.

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