An illuminating Streetcar thread runs through Abby Rosebrock’s talky but riveting new play, Blue Ridge. Alison (Marin Ireland), a newbie at a semi-religious rehab center in North Carolina, is a “disgraced English teacher” who takes after Blanche in a big way. She’s a human tsunami, “on” to an alarming degree as she spills her why-I’m-here story. (Fed up with a back-street dalliance, she took an ax to her married principal’s car.) This retreat – offered as an alternative to jail time – is clearly intended to serve a cleft in the rock of the world (a biblical reference Williams favored). Instead, Allison effectively cleaves two other inmates: Cherie (Kristolyn Lloyd), a vulnerable romantic, and Cole (Peter Mark Kendall), a volatile young vet with PTSD.
Even so, we’re impelled to feel for Alison – while simultaneously, perhaps, reconsidering Blanche. Yes, she’s a pain in the ass, a "hysteric” (in the parlance of the day), a poseuse, but buried somewhere amid Blanche’s selfish motives is the urge to play avenging angel. Her concern for Stella is real, as Alison’s for Cherie just might be. Minor cavils aside (Taibi Magar directs the opening scenes at such a breakneck pace, intelligibility is compromised), Blue Ridge gives us a promising young playwright starting to dig deep, and a chance to witness Ireland at her volcanic best.