BWW Review: Theatre en Bloc's CRY IT OUT - A Superb Look at Motherhood
The publicity for CRY IT OUT tells almost all of it. 3 Women. 3 Different Backgrounds. 1 Shared Struggle. CRY IT OUT is brought to us by the accomplished Theatre En Bloc. CRY IT OUT is yet another theatre experience in the course of the last two years that has afforded this reviewer with a wonderful array of plays that highlight the accomplishments, shine light on the struggles, and celebrate the stories of women. Award winning playwright Molly Smith Metzler has turned her attention away from writing for television (Orange Is The New Black, Shameless) and given us an intimate story about friendship, motherhood, marriage, and career. It's fair to be skeptical about whether or not these topics can hold together without the whole thing coming off like STEEL MAGNOLIAS. Luckily for us, CRY IT OUT is much, much more than that. It's also about gender and privilege, socio-economic disparity, and the struggle of relationship. A strong script, tight direction, and an excellent cast insures this production is also powerful social commentary, at a time when it's needed greatly.
The synopsis is simple enough. Corporate lawyer Jessie is the mother of a new child, isolated in an upper class Long Island suburb where she and her husband have moved from New York to raise a family. She encounters Lina her next door neighbor at the local Stop and Shop, which so happens to be her only reprieve from the all encompassing life of motherhood. She's not like the other Long Island mothers, who generally hand their newborns off to nannies, and Lina isn't either. Lina is a recovering addict, living with her mother-in-law to save up money for her own place. Lina has a night school nursing degree, Jessie is Ivy educated, but their socio-economic differences seem unimportant in the face of a desire for connection in their shared loneliness and the experience of both having newborns. They meet twice a day in the space between their yards where both can still hear their baby monitors, and become fast friends over the course of a few weeks. Their party is crashed by Mitchell, who lives in a mansion on the cliff. He's hoping they'll include his wife, who has recently given birth as well. The trio doesn't work so well, as Mitchell's wife Adrienne is as charming as a pit viper. In the end, what seems straightforward gets all twisted up, and we learn more about these women and ourselves than one would expect. Let's just say the stuff that gives this story it's power is best not revealed here. And it's worth sticking around for the talk back. While I wasn't able to stay the night I attended the play, I still managed to do some heavy thinking on this complicated subject of motherhood and the culture we live in.
Lee Eddy is simply brilliant as Lina, the good-natured extroverted mother from the South Shore. It doesn't hurt that she's got most of the laugh lines and is a square peg in the round caucasian hole that is the rest of the play and its characters. Lina is written so as to give lesser actors the formidable challenge of restraint with a character that could be developed as comedy relief, rather than being a critical part of the play's message. Jenny Lavery provides Jessie with an innocence that belies a take no prisoners corporate lawyer approach, but in the end, she somehow has to go there. J. Ben Wolfe and Christin Sawyer Davis are powerful and sharp as Mitchell and Adrienne. Sawyer more than meets the challenge of making the coldest mother of this trio a dimensional heart felt human. Together, this cast is superb.
Lily Wolf has the challenge of presenting this play in the round on Zach's Whisenhunt stage. Scenic Artist Leslie Turner gives us a wisely sparse set where we can focus exclusively on the story of these three women. While Wolf's blocking was solid, I still felt less fortunate than others for choosing the seats I did, as much of the action took place directly across and aimed away from my seat. It's the only complaint I have of a production that takes such a possibly squishy subject and gives it a backbone full of vitality and nerve.
CRY IT OUT is a superior production - well worth the 90 minutes spent in the theatre. Theatre en Bloc's generous, pay it forward ticketing model should eliminate any financial excuse one might have to missing such a worthwhile show. Catch it while you can.
Cry It Out
by Molly Smith Metzler
Directed by Lily Wolf
Theatre en Bloc
May 04 - May 20, 2018
Get tickets here.
1510 Toomey Road
Austin, TX, 78704
Photo: Theatre en Bloc