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August 7, 2012 9:00 am Views: 108

The cornucopia of offerings in Ottawa’s theatre scene is brimming with exciting plays-from Shakespeare’s A Midsummer Night’s Dream and Henry the Fifth (both which are touring the city’s parks) to The Great Canadian Theatre Company’s production of the father and son drama, The Secret Mask, and Theatre-Nouvelle Scene’s Quelques Humains (Pierre-Michel’s absurdist portrait of a group of decadent, cynical adults)-these plays present poignant plots steeped in a common theme: the human dilemma.

The Irving Greenberg Theatre

Take for instance Karen Balcome’s work, Snapshot. Directed by Patrick Gauthier, this unique piece invites Ottawa theatre-goers to witness what happens when grandfather and granddaughter behave like foes rather than family. Heavy and light-hearted moments define the action and tone for the play as the two protagonists find themselves feeling lost and alone after the loss of their beloved wife and grandmother. Can they make a connection with one another or are they destined to be family in name only? Can their secrets be shared and conflicts resolved? The main protagonists suffer in their own way, but like most of us, they yearn for some kind of connection. Negotiating conflicts and overcoming stubbornness can create new beginning for both  Snapshot is a story about crossing divides, and stumbling upon a path that accidently brings unity to an otherwise disconnected relationship. It will be staged at the Irving Greenberg Theatre Centre next month.

The play, My Name is Asher Lev, is sure to stir the hearts of every artist watching it. Set in the 1950’s in Brooklyn’s Hasidic community, the stage play was adapted by Aaron Posner from the book by Chaim Potok. The 9th Hour Theatre Company will be presenting the play inside Sandy Hill’s Arts Court Theatre, until Aug. 25. A bit autobiographical, My Name is Asher Lev daringly presents what it means to be an artist tormented by conflicting generational values. The protagonist, Asher, is an artist conflicted with his dreams and his parents’ aspirations for him. This is a taut story ripe and reeling with intense family derision. Asher is pitted against his deeply religious, tyrannical father. Asher, a gifted artist, is obsessed with painting, but his traditional upbringing does not allow for artistic expression. His parents are aghast at their son’s disinterest in Judaism along with concomitant daily rituals. The masterpiece Asher creates is a glaring insult to his family. His paints a crucifix, but it is his mother, not Jesus who is on it. This painting graphically references her own pain, for her other son was killed while traveling for the Rebbe, the community’s a great spiritual leader.

My Name is Asher Lev

Asher’s angst has combined with his mother’s in this great art work. But triumph is often the flip side of tragedy. When an artist chooses, gain gives way to some kind of loss. Jacob Kohn’s, Asher’s art teacher, tells him: “As an artist, you are responsible to no one and to nothing except yourself and the truth as you see it”. In the end, Asher has to choose between family and destiny.

Ottawa’s ‘playfest’ has something for everyone interested in the human condition. Allow yourself to be transported into the world of others while enjoying great theatre!

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