‘Avital Ash Workshops Her Suicide Note (Work In Progress)’ An Hour Of Shame and Snickering Most Sublime

By Ernest Kearney  —  In Judaism shame is at the forefront of it all.

As related in Genesis, after eating of the forbidden fruit, Adam and Eve’s first expression of their new state was to hide from God.  Not out of guilt or fear that they had disobeyed him and would be punished, but from their shame at realizing they were naked.

The antinomianism aspect of Christianity, that faith frees one from moral infractions, serves as a sort of “Get Out of Hell” card for the faithful that the adherents of Judaism lack.

What is intriguing, however, in the Old Testament story is that after Adam and Eve’s disobedience is revealed but before their exile, God butchers some of the Garden’s fauna to “make coats of skins, and clothed them.”

So why this slight tour into the Judeo-Christian concept of shame?  Because at the core of Avital Ash Workshops Her Suicide Note (Work In Progress) is shame.

And we are not talking here about the modern garden variety shame, such as accompanies an inappropriate sound occurring in a crowded waiting room.  No, we are talking about an Old Testament Yahwistic shame, one that Ash would know from experience, having been raised in an orthodox Jewish household.

With her young mother committing suicide when Ash was still an infant it could even be said Ash’s life began in shame.   

Ash talks about that suicide, her struggle with bipolarism, depression, and her own thoughts of self-slaughter, which, like her eyes, she believes are inheritances from her mother. 

Throughout it all, Ash engages with her audience, trying out new openings for her suicide letter, asking what songs make them happy, what pets they like, and what their favorite kind of porn is.

Ash takes us down the darkest paths; apostasy, sexual wantonness, drug abuse, borderline alcoholism, date rape; all the very worst of humanity in acts so despicable they wither one’s soul.   

But the great question one carries when leaving her show is how the hell did she keep us laughing nonstop throughout all of that?  

And laugh one does.

Ash places the darkness of her humor before us but cloaks it beneath a cloth woven with intelligence that she delivers with the winning charm of an only slightly demonic pixie.

“God never closes a door without opening a window,

because you can’t throw yourself out a door.”

Ash, like Dante’s Virgil, guides us through the levels of her personal Hell, but Dante would never have been able to leave Virgil at the entrance of the Earthly Paradise if he had been half as engaging as Ash is.

A good comic can win an audience over.  Ash absolutely seduces hers.  I am convinced at the end of her show most of those in the audience wanted to rush up and hug her.  I wanted to wait until the hugging was over before offering my services as a professional “Karma-kaze” to rain down destruction on those who’d abused her.

I also feel that the audience ached to give her a standing ovation, but couldn’t bring themselves to do that.  The reason they couldn’t is a gauge of both the success and brilliance of Ash’s show: we felt shame at what we had been laughing at.

“Some of the people in this room have had some

sexual trauma or been sexually assaulted.

The rest of you are just ugly.”

Ash wins us over with her honesty, her survival, her humor, and those huge brown eyes awash in an alabaster sea, but she cunningly exploits her victory to convey upon us a sense of our own sin.

Rape jokes.  She had us laughing at rape jokes….  Amazing.

But Ash does not exile us from the theatre with our shame only covered in skins, but with impish pleasure pulls those very skins out from under our feet.

Producing a copy of Leonard Stern and Roger Price’s “phrasal template word game” Mad-Libs, Ash took all of the audience’s responses that she had gathered, including my offering of the song that makes me happy[1], and entered them in.

Thus, in a brilliant and breathtaking performance, her suicide letter becomes for us all a party game, and for Ash, the party is far from over.

Platinum Medal

A Platinum Medal.

Learn More at avitalash.com

[1] Open Your Borders by Jack Lukeman, you can hear it on YouTube


For more Information about Avital Ash during the Hollywood Fringe Festival 2023 click HERE.

Written by

An award-winning L.A. playwright and rabble-rouser of note who has hoisted glasses with Orson Welles, been arrested on three continents and once beat up Charlie Manson. His first play, "Among the Vipers" was a semi-finalist in the Julie Harris Playwriting Competition and was featured in the Carnegie-Mellon Showcase of New Plays. It was produced at the NPT Theater in Ashland, Oregon and Los Angeles’ celebrated Odyssey Ensemble Theatre. His following play, “The Little Boy Who Loved Monsters” was produced at The Hollywood Actors Theater, where he earned praise from the Los Angeles Times for his “…inordinately creative writing.” The play went on to numerous other productions including Berlin’s The Black Theatre under the direction of Rainer Fassbinder who wrote in his program notes of Kearney, “He is a skilled playwright, but more importantly he is a dangerous one.” Ernest Kearney has worked as literary manager or as dramaturge for among others The Hudson Theater Guild, Nova Diem and the Odyssey Ensemble Theatre, where he still serves on the play selection committee. He has been the recipient of two Dramalogue Awards and a finalist or semi-finalist, three times, in the Julie Harris Playwriting Competition. His work has been performed by Michael Dunn, Sandra Tsing Loh, Jack Colvin and Billy Bob Thornton, and to date, either as playwright or director, he has upwards of a hundred and thirty productions under his belt, including a few at the Bob Baker Marionette Theater as puppeteer. Kearney remains focused on his writing, as well as living happily ever after with his lovely wife Marlene. His stage reviews and social essays can be found at TheTVolution.com and workingauthor.com. Follow him on Facebook.

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