by Rachel Yen
WPGA’s long-awaited production of The Ash Girl debuted this past weekend after many months of preparation. The amount of hard work that the entire company put in was evident in their overall execution of Timberlake Wertenbaker’s play; from the brilliant acting and outstanding set to the imaginative costumes and underlying themes, WPGA made The Ash Girl their own, creating a memorable experience for cast, crew and audience alike.
All the cast of The Ash Girl took such a genuine approach to their roles. The animal/non-human characters embodied their parts with complete understanding, from their expressive movements to the spectacular costumes and makeup. The characters were so realistic that one could almost forget it was actual people doing the acting. The humans, meanwhile, each had their battles with themselves due to the demons or pressures around them: Ash Girl struggles with finding the good things in herself rather than the negatives; the stepsisters would rather study rocks and paint than look pretty for the prince; and Prince Amir himself has to adjust to living in a new country. By touching on so many of these universal societal themes, the characters also appeared more relatable. Each and every member of the cast was clearly committed to his or her role in every aspect—110%.
The set also played a big role in exhibiting these characters, as it was versatile enough to create many levels, allowing the Seven Deadly Sins and other animals to remain in their respective habitats whether lying on the ground like Slothworm or eyeing its “prey” like Angerbird and Pridefly.
Oftentimes, productions only change a few aspects of the set design and audience members feel as though the play was in the same place the entire time. This was not the case in The Ash Girl: I was absolutely amazed by the set. The forest was utterly eerie, with shifting lighting that encaptured each deadly sin and towering tree. The house of Ash Girl and her stepfamily had a cottage-like feel, prominently showcasing the fireplace–Ash Girl’s haven. Oriental extravagance graced the palace of Prince Amir and Princess Zehra; there, the use of twinkling lights also added a nice touch. Despite reusing some of the same set pieces, the set still felt completely different with each change of scene. It was quite a magical experience.
The characters’ appearances were also dealt with in a thoughtful and authentic way. The makeup was expertly done to complete each character’s look, and every piece of clothing related wonderfully to the time period and tone of the play. None of it was dull, nor too extravagant. Some of the costumes that stuck out were that of the Seven Deadly Sins, as well the beautiful ball gowns. There were hints of whimsicalness even in this heavier setting, such as the stepmother and stepsisters’ wigs: they were huge, bright and gaudy–just as silly as you’d expect from the comical characters. This contrast only made the play more enjoyable.
WPGA productions never cease to amaze. This year’s production of The Ash Girl was one that entertained adults and students alike. As an audience member, it can be hard to pay attention when a play is too long; but The Ash Girl captivated us all and brought us along on a wondrous storytelling adventure.
Congratulations to the cast and crew for putting on such an entertaining and fabulous performance. I can’t wait to see what’s in store for next year!