[image-1]This isn’t really the morning after I saw the show, but anyway . . . I saw Ash Girl Friday night at the College of Charleston. With college productions, I tend to have low expectations. Not that I expect bad acting or scenery (though that is what happens sometimes). What I mean is that the standards should be a little bit lower for a student ensembles. They are students, after all, not professionals. Not yet, anyway.

With this in mind, I was very impressed by what I saw. Staged at the Robinson Theatre at the Simons Center for the Arts, Ash Girl boasted strong acting and excellent costumes. Lighting and scenery were precise, effective, and transparent (in the way they’re supposed to be). The show had stage tricks, too, pulled off commendably. There was a scene in which my heart was thumping — the character of Death is joined by the Seven Deadly Sins in an attempt to kill Ash Girl. It was eerie. It was scary. It was affecting. I found myself being really worried about our little modern-day Cinderella.

Sometimes, college theater groups take on works that are too much for them, or for individual actors in particular. A theater department I knew once tackled difficult repertoire that demanded more than those college kids could give. Take Death of a Salesman, for instance. Willie is no simple character and the play’s themes of struggle and alienation are tough to embody and express. They’re certainly possible, but college directors should know what the limits are, so as not to overtax his or her resources.

That said, Ash Girl was spot on. It was a great choice for a college production, allowing numerous parts, plenty of room for seriousness and humor. Because it’s a postmodern play of allegory and archetype, rather than one focused on character development, no one actor was saddled with carrying the bulk of the narrative and emotional burden. Typical of college shows, actors had their rah-rah camps. That lent a nice feeling of camaraderie and energy to the evening. You can get that anywhere else but college.