BWW Review: CRY IT OUT at Hartford Stage
Choosing whether or not to go back to work after having a baby can be one of the most difficult decisions a new mother (or father) can make. Even the most career-focused parents can find themselves weighing pros and cons when trying to do what they think is best for their growing family. But this decision is not as black and white as it may seem. Bubbling underneath can be old insecurities, conflicting gender role expectations, and fear that making the wrong choice will have a negative impact. Molly Smith Metzler's play CRY IT OUT, now playing at Hartford Stage, explores these themes through the eyes of four parents, each on their own journey through new parenthood and each dealing with the highs and lows of this common parental dilemma.
CRY IT OUT centers on two women, both new mothers with young infants, who live next to each other in a Long Island neighborhood. Lina (Evelyn Spahr) is a no-nonsense, working class new mother from the Jersey shore who is living with her mother-in-law while she and her husband save up for a house. She meets Jessie (Rachel Spencer Hewitt) at the local Stop and Shop and they become fast friends who regularly bond and commiserate over coffee in their adjoining back yard. Jessie, a lawyer, is struggling with the decision to stay home with her baby daughter or go back to work, while Lina, who doesn't have that luxury, prepares to go back to her entry level hospital job, leaving her baby, Max, with her mother-in-law. The friends are approached one day by Mitchell (Erin Gann), a rich neighbor who lives nearby and who asks the two friends to invite his wife, Adrienne (Caroline Kinsolving) to join them for coffee. Adrienne comes over, but rather than welcome the opportunity to bond as Jessie and Lina do, she is intense, rude, and indifferent to the two friends. As Lina's time at home quickly comes to an end and Jessie's decision on her future looms large, the play moves to a conclusion filled with drama, melancholy and glints of hope.
Molly Smith Metzler's script is fresh, fast paced, authentic and downright funny. She has captured the characters perfectly in the way they talk and interact. They feel like real people you might meet on the street and that makes the struggles and the joys explored on stage so impactful. This realness is also due to the extremely talented actors embodying these characters. Ms. Spahr and Ms. Hewitt, as the new best friends Jessie and Lina, are a joy to watch. They are funny and relatable, and you quickly grow to care about them and their lives. As the neighbor, Mitchell, Mr. Gann is funny and frenetic. And, as his cold, yet complicated wife, Adrienne, Ms. Kinsolving is perfectly stoic and brilliantly frosty.
Director Rachel Alderman has done a great job bringing the story to life. The single backyard setting (beautifully imagined by scenic designer Kristen Robinson) allows Ms. Alderman to focus primarily on the characters and their lives. Her direction is natural and realistic which punctuates the relatability of the story.
CRY IT OUT at Hartford Stage is a perfect mix of comedy and thoughtful, relationship drama that elicits laughter while encouraging introspection. The dilemmas that are brought to life on stage feel real and have a sense of urgency that translates into a fast paced, thoroughly enjoyable 90 minutes. Whether you are a new parent, or can barely remember those diaper-filled days, CRY IT OUT is a lovely night at the theatre.
CRY IT OUT runs at Hartford Stage in Hartford, CT through November 17. Hartford Stage is located at 50 Church Street, Hartford, CT 06103. Performances are Tuesday, Wednesday, Thursday, and Sunday at 7:30 p.m., Friday and Saturday at 8:00 p.m., and Saturday and Sunday at 2:00 p.m. Weekly schedules vary. For tickets or for more information call 860-527-5151 or visit www.hartfordstage.org.
All photos by T. Charles Erickson
Top Photo: (L-R) Rachel Spencer Hewitt, Evelyn Spahr
Mid-Photo 1: (L-R) Evelyn Spahr, Caroline Kinsolving
Mid-Photo 2: (L-R) Rachel Spencer Hewitt, Evelyn Spahr