Chaim Potok, who died in 2002, grew up in a distinctive subculture, Hassidic Judaism. His parents, Polish immigrants, raised him in a household devoted to the practice of a strict religious faith. He was subsequently ordained as a rabbi and served as an Army chaplain during the Korean conflict. Returning home, he followed a new path, earning a doctorate in philosophy and becoming a novelist. His path ran very parallel to the central character in his 1972 novel, My Name Is Asher Lev, about a young man pulled between a secular life as a visual artist and a religious existence within the Hassidic community. His much-praised novel, a poignant look at the cost of individuality, became a play last year and had its world premiere in Philadelphia. Ensemble Theatre of Cincinnati is presenting one of just two productions this season.
Director D. Lynn Meyers has cast a young actor, Josh Odsess-Rubin, in the title role; last season the Yale University grad was an intern at the Cincinnati Playhouse. Playing his parents in a production that explores questions of art, family, religion and loyalty are two veteran Cincinnati performers, Michael G. Bath and Regina Pugh. Meyers has unerring instincts for powerful theater, and this show is likely to be another dramatically satisfying find for local audiences.