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The Ash Girl

Timberlake Wertenbaker's magical take on the Cinderella story is given a well-acted but unimaginatively stated production. logo
Meagan Kensil and Ian Lassiter
in The Ash Girl
(© Ahron R. Foster)
Timberlake Wertenbaker's 2000 play The Ash Girl, now at The Connelly Theater, is a riff on Grimm's Cinderella that focuses on the otherworldly elements behind the magic that's central to the story. However, in the Pipeline Theater Company's revival, director Jessika Doyel's unimaginative staging robs the play of much of its magic.

Here, the seven deadly sins are personified, cloaked in form-fitting black and flitting about the stage trying to possess various characters, especially Ash Girl (Meagan Kensil), the Cinderella of the piece who gets her name from her dirty appearance. After her father leaves her in the care of her stepmom (Nicole Spiezio) to attend to his own demons, she covers herself in ashes to close herself off to the world.

Wertenbaker is interested in inner demons as much if not more than the fantastical ones that appear on stage. Ash Girl is trapped inside herself, battling insecurity and depression, so when she meets her prince (Ian Lassiter), it's all the more magical.

Kensil captures Ash's transformation with subtle facial expressions and body language that makes it more profound than the old "girl removes glasses and suddenly all the guys notice her" trick. Lassiter, likewise, is solidly stately as the Prince, and Arielle Siegel brings a charming levity as the Fairy who makes it possible for Ash to go to the ball.

Unfortunately, Doyel rams both the actors and the audience onto the otherwise spacious stage of the Connelly Theater in a misguided attempt at intimacy. Instead, the action feels cluttered and the actors trapped in an awkward space with the audience surrounding on three sides. In many scenes actors sit on the floor, further diminishing our sightlines.

While the first act feels quite long, there are glimmers of magic that still shine through to give a sense of what might have been, particularly in the second act. Kensil and Siegel play off each other particularly well, making the transformation of Ash a captivating moment. If only the production could exude the same energy.

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