ASHIRA 69 (EPISODE ONE: CULT TO THE CHASE)
nytheatre.com review by Robert Kent
Who is Ashira? She's a mega-babe with "superhuman strength, speed,
agility," a wild Afro, and really cool go-go boots. In other words,
Ashira is Wonder Woman, Xena, Foxy Brown, and each of the Powerpuff
Girls combined into one kick-ass superhero. She's also the star of her
own hilarious live-action serial, Ashira 69. As part of FringeNYC,
the Ashira 69 series opener, "Episode #1: Cult to the Chase," is
currently running at the aptly named Play Room.
August 15, 2003
Portrayed by the dynamic Damaris Webb, Ashira is the quintessential modern-day comic-book heroine. She has "faith in the goodness of others," a totally groovy theme song (written by Nathan Caswell), and a staunch determination to rid the world of evils ranging from murder to the tyranny of long-distance calling plans.
Ashira's adversaries include Freezia Sleet, a cold-hearted Canadian with the ability to freeze foes; international assassin (and party planner) Alley Class and her computer savvy assistant Emmanuelle Doux; The Needa Suprema, a power-hungry showgirl; and Candace Cain, a "disarmingly charming" pop-star hell-bent on world domination. Four appealing, versatile actresses—Courtney Cunningham, Chris Caswell, Katie Zeiner, and Webb—play these women and other colorful characters with flair. Caswell, as Class, is particularly skilled at embodying the archetypal cartoon villainess.
Spiritedly directed by Tina Polzin and nicely narrated by Fiona Jones, the book—written by Paul Sapp in collaboration with the cast—has its strengths and weaknesses. Ashira 69 is sassy, yet unnecessarily formulaic. This extended, good-versus-evil sketch follows the waitress-turned-superhero Ashira from a truck-stop diner in Las Vegas (a.k.a. the Flatlands) to a steel citadel in Megalopolis where she must battle against injustice using beauty, brawn—and a razor-sharp machete.
Overall, the production is a playful, all-girl romp. But for Ashira 69 to truly soar, its direction needs to be tightened, and its G-rated humor should be spiced up with some sexual innuendo or juicy political barbs. With a few clever tweaks to its script and staging, Ashira 69 could reach new audiences—and new heights. Battle on, Ashira!