It is hard to reimagine Cinderella successfully, but The Ash Girl proves it isn’t impossible. The Ash Girl moves the traditional Cinderella story to the forest. A forest that is haunted possessed by the seven deadly sins.
The Ash Girl takes off from the traditional launching pad, two terrible step-sisters who make life miserable for Ashgirl. Her father has abandoned the family leaving the stepmother poor, the stepsisters unsupervised and Ashy a sad and shy outcast. And the forest outside the house, throughout the land, is the home of the seven deadly sins. These spirits exist only to foil the hopes and dreams of man, feeding on their corruption.
So in this telling, good and kind people can lose their way in the forest, overcome by envy, pride or lust. It takes a strong will to overcome the challenges of the forest, with the temptations they bring. This adds a layer of understanding and depth to the story we all know so well.
Unfortunately, the playwright introduced Sadness as vice, even going so far as to call it the eighth deadly sin. The problem here is that sadness, as portrayed as the whisper of death, is a pretty dull character. And Ashy struggles with Sadness … repeatedly. The final time seems to drag on interminably. The struggle between Sadness and Ashgirl works against the dynamic and ideas that are expressed so well in the rest of the show.
The acting is quite good, particularly Ian Lassiter as Prince Amir and Sam Chapin as Otter. Meagan Kensil, as Ashgirl is very good when not having to fight-to-the-sleep with Sadness. The dance scene between Prince Amir and Ashgirl is wonderful. The writing flows, and you feel the attraction, new and strange, for both of these characters. It is a magical moment.
The piece is staged beautifully with the lighting from Jeffrey Toombs. Finally, The Ash Girl benefits from some excellent costumes, by Abbey Steere. Ms. Steere brings the perfect pitch to these characters, both before and during the Prince’s Ball. It is the most believable set of costumes I have ever seen used in the telling of the story.
The Ash Girl by the Pipeline Theatre Company
Playwright: Timberlake Wertenbaker
Director: Jessika Doyel
Cast: Megan Kensil, Ian Lassiter, Nicole Spiezio, Sam Chapin, Shane O’Grady, Jenny Donheiser, Rebecca Schoffer, Zachary Zimbler