“Ash Tuesday,” composed of intersecting stories of morose New Yorkers still trying to pick up the pieces after 9/11, feels like an existential play poorly adapted for the screen. Actors make their entrances, declaim their loneliness and despair, and exit. They’re poised for exposition in the same way movie characters are before breaking into song or dance . Name players will probably assure “Ash” a spot on cable, but auds will find this earnest trauma-fest awkward and old hat.
Cast is a collection of the walking wounded: a downtrodden waitress, a punk rocker with no band, a guilt-ridden bereaved mother and an agoraphobic writer who hasn’t left her apartment since “Ash Tuesday.” Scripter Tony Spiridakis himself plays the lynchpin character, a cop-turned-cabby who hears a droning noise in his head and who shepherds pic’s misfit flock to safety in the Naked City. Only Giancarlo Esposito’s role — that of a down-and-out street poet extravagantly smitten with Janeane Garofalo’s spinsterish shut-in — dovetails with helmer Jim Hershleder’s hyper-real approach. Tech elements do little to naturalize or effectively stylize pic’s klutzy staginess.