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'Ashes' Still Glows in Revival at the Fountain Theatre

October 07, 1994|SCOTT COLLINS

The joy of sex, the cold indifference of medical specialists, the anguish of a failed attempt at parenthood--these are the emotions that linger from David Rudkin's beautiful play "Ashes."

Uncannily adept at mining awful meaning from the everyday, Rudkin excels at the kind of precise, deeply felt writing that can make one behold the world in a fresh, if not always happy, way.

The seriocomic "Ashes" concerns the plight of Colin and Anne (Brian Markinson and Jacqueline Schultz), a thirtyish couple in Britain whose struggle to conceive or adopt a child seems cursed by fate.

As they move through a succession of experts and crackpot fertility schemes--including a visit to a haughty, high-priced "semenologist" (Kenneth Danziger, in one of many amusing turns)--the tone grows progressively darker and more biting. The couple's quest becomes a slice-of-life metaphor for human desperation in general.

Stephen Sachs' crisp production is played out on a deliberately sterile set, dominated by the marital bed that, tellingly, also serves as examining table. In this forbidding environment, Markinson pulls off the delicate trick of conveying Colin's cocky charm and nagging self-doubt. Given a less showy role, Schultz can still break hearts as the frustrated would-be mother.

The spectacular performances and sparkling language make this "Ashes" worth seeing.

* "Ashes," Fountain Theatre, 5060 Fountain Ave., Hollywood. Thursdays-Saturdays, 8 p.m., through Oct. 29. Also this Sunday only at 7 p.m. $15-$17.50. (213) 663-1525. Running time: 1 hour, 50 minutes.

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