Photo Flash: First Look at CRY IT OUT at Echo Theater Company
The Echo Theater Company presents a hilarious and deeply moving "comedy with dark edges" that takes an honest look at the absurdities of being home with a baby, the power of female friendship, the dilemma of going back to work and the effect class has on parenthood in America. Lindsay Allbaugh directs the West Coast premiere of Cry It Out by Molly Smith Metzler for a July 14 opening at Atwater Village Theatre.Three months ago, new mom Jessie Gelb (Jackie Chung - Caught at Downtown LA's ThinkTank Factory, Tiger Style! at La Jolla Playhouse, Fast Company at SCR) was a corporate lawyer with a glamorous Manhattan life; today, she's living in a Long Island suburb, wearing dirty yoga pants and covered in breast milk. Thrilled to discover that her next-door neighbor also has a newborn, Jessie invites the funny and forthright Lina (Megan Ketch -American Gothic; recurring on Jane the Virgin, The Good Wife, Blue Bloods) for coffee in their adjoining yards. A fast friendship is born - but their intimacy is punctured when a stranger who lives in the mansion on the cliff above (Brian Henderson, recently seen in House in Scarsdaleat Boston Court) shows up with a request: his wife (Emily Swallow, currently appearing as Lady Percy in Henry IV with Tom Hanks and Hamish Linklater) is having a "hard time" as a new mother. Could they include her in their coffee klatch? As the mother of a six-month old, Allbaugh relates deeply to each of the characters. "When [Echo artistic director] Chris Fields sent me the script, Miles was two months old and I was living this play," she says. "Somehow I managed, between naps and feedings, to read the play. I laughed out loud in recognition, and by the end of the play I was wrecked. I was facing the same challenges as these women. I, too, was trying to reconcile this new version of myself and questioning whether I could ever be an artist again. Being a parent has totally changed my world. The desperate need for a village, a family of friends, in those first weeks is something I can completely relate to. And the incredibly difficult choices you have to make. I get this play on a deep, deep level." According to Metzler, just after she became pregnant, her husband accepted a job on Long Island. "We moved to this town called Port Washington," she explains. "I was struck immediately by the economic disparity there. Along the water there's a large rental community, home to some lower income families with subsidized housing. And literally up on the cliff above them is Sands Point, one of the richest villages in the country, with palatial estates. I became fascinated by the class differences in the town and knew it would be the setting for this play." Cry It Out was commissioned by The Actors Theatre of Louisville, where it premiered at the 2017 Humana Festival of New American Plays. In 2018, the play received a Citation from the American Theatre Critics Association along with a $7,500 prize. ATCA panel members noted that the play is "heartbreakingly original in wrestling with issues of female friendship and class and privilege while still being a story about two people one quickly feels strongly about." In a recent review, Chicago Tribune theater critic Chris Jones called Cry It Out "a special kind of show... It's not only empathetic and enjoyable writing, it all rings utterly true." The Echo's creative team includes set designer François-Pierre Couture, lighting designer Rose Malone, sound designer Jeff Gardner, costume designer Ann Closs-Farley and graphic designer Christopher Komuro. The assistant director is Molly Kauffman, and the production stage manager is Venice Yue Yang. Chris Fields and Rachael Zambias produce for the Echo Theater Company.Molly Smith Metzler's other plays include Elemeno Pea, The May Queen, Carve, Close Up Space and Training Wisteria. Her work has been produced at Actors Theatre of Louisville/Humana, Northlight Theatre, South Coast Rep, Manhattan Theatre Club (MTC), Chautauqua Theatre Company, Boston Playwrights Theatre and many more. Metzler's awards include a 2018 ATCA/Steinberg New Play Award Citation, the Lecomte du Nouy Prize from Lincoln Centerand three Kennedy Center American College Theater Festival (KCACTF) prizes. In television, Metzler has written forCasual (Hulu), Orange Is the New Black (Netflix), Codes of Conduct (HBO), and is currently a writer/producer on Shameless (Showtime). In film, she recently adapted Ali Benjamin's award-winning novel "The Thing About Jellyfish" into a feature for Reese Witherspoon/Made Up Stores/OddLot Entertainment, which was on the 2017 Black List. Education: SUNY Geneseo, Boston University, NYU Tisch and The Juilliard School. Lindsay Allbaugh, a member of Center Theatre Group's artistic staff for the past 13 years, has served in varying capacities but is most passionate about producing and developing new work. In addition to her work at CTG, Lindsay was the co-artistic director at the Elephant Theatre Company in Hollywood for 10 years. Selected directing credits include the West Coast premiere of Collective Rage: A Play in Five Boops (The Theatre @ Boston Court), Out of Orbit by Jennifer Maisel (Cal Rep), Gray City by Keith Huff (Harvard/ART), Revelation by Samuel Brett Williams (Elephant), the West Coast premiere of 100 Saints You Should Know by Kate Fodor (Elephant), Aloha Say the Pretty Girls (Harvard/ART), the world premiere ofSupernova by Tim McNeil (Elephant), Tooth and Nail by Gena Acosta (Elephant) and Kate Crackernuts by Sheila Callaghan (Harvard/ART). Founded in 1997 and dedicated to producing new work, the Echo Theater Company received 13 Ovation Award nominations for its 2017 productions, including "Best Season." The company was anointed "Best Bet for Ballsy Original Plays" by the LA Weekly in its 2014 Best of L.A. issue and was a recipient of a 2016 "Kilroy Cake Drop"- one of only 13 theaters in the country to be surprised by cakes to honor the efforts they are making to produce women and trans writers. Under the leadership of founding artistic director Chris Fields, the Echo has introduced Los Angeles to playwrights such as David Lindsay-Abaire, Adam Rapp, Sarah Ruhl, Adam Bock and Miki Johnson among others. The company is also recognized for its acting ensemble; in the Los Angeles Times, theater critic Charles McNulty wrote, "Echo Theater Company, which has cultivated a community of top flight actors, would be my go-to place in Los Angeles for symbiotic ensemble acting." KCRW's Anthony Byrnes stated, "It's time to start paying attention to the Echo Theater Company... What's made these choices pay off is the acting and casting has been superb. The company has made bold choices and backed them up." Cry It Out opens on Saturday, July 14, with performances continuing on Fridays and Saturdays at 8 p.m.; Sundays at 4 p.m.; and Mondays at 8 p.m. through Aug. 19. The 4 p.m. performance on July 22 has been designated "Child Care Sunday" - Echo Theater Company will provide free child care for parents attending that performance. Three preview performances are set for Wednesday, July 11; Thursday, July 12; and Friday, July 13, all at 8 p.m. Tickets are $34 on Fridays, Saturdays and Sundays; Monday nights and preview performances are Pay-What-You-Want. Atwater Village Theatre is located at 3269 Casitas Ave in Los Angeles, CA 90039. On-site parking is free. For reservations and information, call (310) 307-3753 or go to www.EchoTheaterCompany.com.
Photo Credit: Darrett Sanders