Blue Ridge

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Photo: Ahron R. Foster Review
Brave. Raw. Truthful. Compelling. These adjectives have been applied with unusual consistency to the work of actress Marin Ireland for nearly 20 years, so it should be far from surprising that they prove, once again, to be absolutely fitting when describing her performance as Alison, a woman with serious issues of anger, self-esteem and narcissism, in Abby Rosebrock’s ultimately harrowing drama “Blue Ridge,” now being presented at the Atlantic Theater Company.

A remarkably complex character, Alison – who currently resides in a halfway house after destroying her ex-boss/ex-lover’s car – proves quickly to also be a mass of contradictions. She’s an AP English teacher who has never shaken off her “hillbilly” North Carolina roots; a woman with a seemingly deep hatred of men who nonetheless resorts to flirting to get what she needs; and a person who, despite her frequent displays of strength intelligence, is painfully, almost pathetically, desperate for attention and praise from others. It’s not just natural that she not only teaches “A Streetcar Named Desire” every semester, but she quotes Blanche DuBois more than once while in the house.

Alison’s affinity with Tennessee Williams’ most famous heroine is not lost on Pastor Hern (Chris Stack), the seemingly devout man who runs the house alongside Grace (Nicole Lewis), an open-hearted lesbian. But the play’s primary focus is less on Alison’s interactions with them than its three other residents: Cherie (a fierce Kristolyn Lloyd), a former AP French teacher and recovering alcoholic who instantly bonds with Alison; Wade (a fine Kyle Beltran), a rather mild-mannered soul who was addicted to prescription painkillers; and Cole (the excellent Peter Mark Kendall), a former mental home patient whose chemistry with Alison proves to be dangerously combustible.

Rosebrock’s gift for creating these multi-dimensional characters and director Tabi Magar’s skill in shaping the actors’ performances are the production’s big assets. But the script is too circuitous and diffuse for its own good, throwing around questions about religion, racism and homophobia that ultimately distract from the play’s central thesis. And while we’re grateful for the doses of humor Rosebrock sprinkles in, some of it feels a tad forced. Admittedly, no one needs a one-note screed, but “Blue Ridge” would benefit from a somewhat sharper focus.

Still, it’s Ireland, constantly walking along the razor’s edge, who never takes one false step -- and delivers 2018 first “don’t miss” performance!

By Brian Scott Lipton

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Kyle Beltran, Marin Ireland, Nicole Lewis, Kristolyn Lloyd, and Chris Stack

Open/Close Dates
Opening 12/12/2018
Closing 1/26/2019

Theatre Info
Atlantic Theater Company/Linda Gross Theater
336 West 20th Street
New York, NY 10011