Ashes to Ashes, a new play written by Debbie Bolsky, directed by Katherine James, and presented by The Athena Cats, a collective of Southern California female playwrights and directors, is touted as “a madcap romantic comedy…written in the tradition of classic film screwball comedies.” A pair of former lovers, Sara (Lena Bouton) and Jefferson (Kevin Young), fly off on a globetrotting mission to spread the ashes of their beloved friends Kate and Wilson. Sara and Jeff are diametrical opposites; she is a liberal tree hugger and he is a by-the-book conservative. Kate and Wilson were insanely wealthy and have left their fortune to Jeff and Sara on the proviso that they must always be in close physical proximity to each other as they spread the ashes at all the places that were important to the dearly deceased. If they fail to abide by the rules, the money will go to organizations that are anathema to each of their political points of view. Jeff’s share, for instance might go the ACLU, while Sara’s could end up with the NRA. It’s a fine start for the obvious trajectory. Screwball comedies that set eventual lovers in motion are as old as Shakespeare’s Much Ado About Nothing.
To guide them on their way, the quarreling couple are serviced by a variety of characters at their stops, all played by the madcap, chameleon actor, Michael Uribes, who sets the tone of the evening garbed as a female flight attendant who greets the audience as they file into the theatre and chats them up until the lights dim. He taps his reservoir of foreign accents as an Irishman at the Blarney Stone, a Scot at the River Tay, a Venetian gondolier, and many more.
The play shows promise and tries very hard to live up to its press release. The actors did their best, but for a play billing it self as comedy, the laughs were scattered few and far between. The script became formulaic, repeating the same actions again and again. The characters are thinly drawn, allowing no real depth of emotion to develop between the actors. As expected, the two former lovers do gradually come together, and Mike Uribes wraps up the show with satisfying emotion, that was sadly too little and too late.
Handsomely mounted by a sterling creative staff, the production looks great with a set by Pete Hickock that features big, easily moveable boxes and multiple levels, with billowing swaths of white cloth swooping high upstage, all of it illuminated by the fine lighting design of Stacy McKenney. The sound design is by Cricket S. Myers; costumes are by Kate Bergh; projections by Nick Santiago; and props by Michael Allen Angel. The stage manager is Karen Osborne.
Ashes to Ashes is produced by Racquel Lehrman, Theatre Planners, and executive producer Laurel Wetzork for The Athena Cats. Ashes to Ashes is a visiting production at Odyssey Theatre, 2055 S. Sepulveda Blvd. in Los Angeles and runs through January 14.