Hannibalians will have nine opportunities to see “My Name is Asher Lev,” which opens in preview Thursday, May 24, at Bluff City Theater. It will be presented at 7:30 p.m. on Thursday, Friday and Saturday through June 2, with 2 p.m. Saturday matinees.

Hannibalians will have nine opportunities to see “My Name is Asher Lev,” which opens in preview Thursday, May 24, at Bluff City Theater in Hannibal. It will be presented at 7:30 p.m. on Thursday, Friday and Saturday through June 2, with 2 p.m. Saturday matinees.

Continuing the current season's theme of faith, the play is the story of a Hassidic Jew born with artistic ability that puts him at odds with his family and his Jewish upbringing.

Bluff City Executive Director Joe Anderson said a lot of families will see themselves in the characters. “Even parents who love their children struggle with the choices they make. And even children who love their parents struggle to break free of the bonds that tie us to them,” Anderson said. “We don’t need to be Hassidic Jews to have traditions that seem stuffy and old-fashioned to the next generation.”

Anderson added the play works on many levels, because it is realistic, funny and poignant all at the same time.

Two Bluff City Theater newcomers will star in the play, along with Rosemary Watts, who has acted in two previous Bluff City productions. All three are from St. Louis.

Watts will play all the women in the play, including Asher's mother and the manager of an art gallery. She said Asher's mother is a “very rich character,” adding she believes a lot of mothers try to make peace when there are conflicts between fathers and sons. She hopes the audience will leave the theater with “a little more understanding.”

Watts' favorite previous role was an Iowa housewife in “Menopause the Musical,” which did 700 performances at a St. Louis area theater.

Drew Pannebecker portrays Asher from childhood to adulthood, and Jared Sanz-Agero will play all the other men, including Asher's father.

Pennebecker explained he will play Asher at age 29, using flashbacks to tell the story of his life from age 6 to 20.

“I tell how old I am when I move to a memory,” he said.

The play is set in Brooklyn but also has scenes in Florence and Paris. Pennebecker's favorite previous role was Alan Strang in “Equus.”

Sanz-Agero, who plays Asher's father, said “He is a child prodigy. He's growing up as a religious Jew and a modern artist. ... It's incumbent of every Jew. He shouldn't be doing his art. He should be learning the Torah.” Sanz-Agero also will portray the Rebbe, the leader of Hassidic Jews.

Among his favorite previous roles are Stanley Kowalski in “A Streetcar Named Desire” and starring in “Amadeus.” His most recent play was “Stones in His Pockets,” in which he had 17 parts.

The play is being directed by Sydnie Grosberg Ronga of New York City, who formerly directed “The Glass Menagerie” at Bluff City. She said the new play, “will take you on a private journey.”

Tickets for the Asher Lev performances may be purchased online at www.eventshannibal.com or by calling 573-719-3226. Adults are $26 each, students 14 and under are $15 or they can purchased as part of a 4-ticket Flex Pass (4 tickets in any combination for $95).

Reach reporter Bev Darr at bev.darr@courierpost.com.