Try lightly spraying the hinges with either WD-40 or similar silicone lubricant.
I believe the instructions for removing the ashtray are as follows:
1) Remove the shift knob (pull down boot, there's a small metal clip, take it out, DON"T LOSE IT, pull up the knob).
2) Use a plastic blade and carefully pry off the shifter panel (not the chrome piece, the bigger aluminum piece). Start from the front part on one side and slid the blade carefully while pulling lightly up. The thing is held in place with clips. It's easy to take it out once you get some confidence in yourself).
3) Unplug the two harnesses for the shifter and take out the panel.
4) You'll see two screws at the bottom of the ashtray. Unscrew those. There might be two more screws under the radio face plate, but not sure.