Sunday, January 27, 2019

Blue Ridge (Atlantic Theater Company)

By Harry Forbes

In Abby Rosebrock’s new play, feisty English teacher Alison (Marin Ireland), a gal with serious anger management issues (she took an axe to her principal’s Honda), moves in with the longstanding residents of St. John’s Service House, a church-sponsored halfway house in Western North Carolina.

By turns friendly and collegial, confrontational and prickly, Alison ultimately disrupts the delicate harmony of the group which includes their pastor Hern (Chris Stack), his assistant Grace (Nicole Lewis), her new roommate Cherie (Kristolyn Lloyd) who’s a French teacher, guitar-strumming Lothario Wade (outstanding Kyle Beltran), and sweet-natured veteran Cole (Peter Mark Kendall), all recovering from various addictions (pills, alcohol) or psychological issues.

“Blue Ridge” bristles with energy, humor and sharp characterizations, and touches on themes of race, class, and #MeToo issues, the last having to do with the mid-play revelation of an inappropriate romantic liaison. You care about all of her characters, and despite flaws, most especially Alison’s abrasiveness, grow to care for all of them. This is as much due to the appealing performances of the ace cast, and a galvanic turn by the great Ireland.

Taibi Magar directs her ensemble with fine sensitivity, though the naturalistic overlapping of fast-talking dialogue, and Appalachian accents, occasionally hinders audibility.

Adam Rigg’s settings, lighted by Amith Chandrashaker, including the group’s Bible study meeting room, have the right institutional ambiance. And the other production elements, such as Sarah Laux’s costumes, Mikaal Sulaiman’s sound and music, are fine, too.

(Linda Gross Theater, 336 W. 20th Street; or 866-811-4111; through January 27)

Photo: Ahron R. Foster
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