The residents here (please don’t call them inmates) include Alison’s roommate and confidante, Cherie (Kristolyn Lloyd), a former French teacher with a drinking problem, and Wade (Kyle Beltran), who is overcoming an addiction to pain pills. Then there’s Cole (Peter Mark Kendall), a sweet-faced, reticent military veteran who arrives later in the play.
As is to be expected when a crew of variously damaged individuals is assembled in a confined space for the purposes of theater, friendships, enmities, rivalries and erotic attractions bloom and fester. Steered with a steady hand by the fast-rising Ms. Magar (“Underground Railroad Game,” “Is God Is”), none of the cast members oversell the attendant conflicts and confrontations.
Mr. Kendall, a young actor to watch, is especially persuasive as a lost, unsophisticated country boy who, a few sweet eccentricities aside, is as normal as blueberry pie until he very clearly isn’t. Watch his face during the play’s one sex scene, in which pleasure and dismay war for dominance and everything we’ve learned about Cole so far seems to click naturally into place.
Collectively, though, Ms. Rosebrock’s dramatis personae carry too much heavy baggage — involving race and class as well as mental illness and dependency problems — to be sorted through in a breezy two hours of stage time. And the exposure of a secret romance feels jimmied into place.
Still, admirers of Ms. Ireland won’t leave the theater hungry. Alison may say she isn’t addicted to anything, but she’s clearly addicted to attention. Ms. Ireland artfully renders her as a restless, psychodramatic cutup, full of “quips and cranks and wanton wiles” (to quote Milton, which seems appropriate in discussing an English teacher), and you can understand how she might have captivated her high school students.
At one group meeting, she even rolls on the floor quoting Blanche DuBois from “A Streetcar Named Desire” to make sure she commands center stage. Which may well have you salivating at the prospect of Ms. Ireland taking on that ultimate damaged heroine of American theater.