BWW Review: CRY IT OUT at Studio Theatre
Admittedly, I am not a parent - nor have I ever had the desire to be one. As a 30-something, I've never had to navigate through the family vs. career challenges depicted in Molly Smith Metzler's play Cry It Out, now playing at Studio Theatre. Yet, even without the ability to personally relate to the story, there's a lot to appreciate in the play and Studio's production of it.
Melding dramatic and comedic elements together in a nearly perfect concoction, Ms. Metzler introduces us to three new mothers in Port Washington, an economically diverse area of Long Island. While it's only about a thirty-minute train ride to New York City's Penn Station, it's an entirely different world for Jessie (Emjoy Gavino) and her husband Nate, both recent transplants from the City. Jessie is on maternity leave from her law firm. She spends all day at home in the couple's new duplex with her newborn Allison. Visits to the local Stop and Shop are a welcome opportunity to engage with other humans. It's there that she meets her neighbor Lina (Dina Thomas), also a new mother. While their social and financial statuses are just as different as their language and clothing (costumes by Kathleen Geldard) choices, the two strike up a friendship and meet twice a day outside for coffee.
As they learn more about each other and discuss the challenges they face as new mothers in Jessie's yard (scenic design by Chelsea Warren), opportunities abound for the audience to think about larger issues such as inequality, women in the workplace, and gender norms. Jessie is ready to give up on a dream of making partner at her law firm to be a stay-at-home mother, but is not all that certain how to break the news to her husband. Lina, unmarried, has no choice but to go back to work and leave baby in the care of her boyfriend's mother - who is hardly the epitome of a responsible babysitter.
When their even more financially successful neighbor (whose house is literally located on a cliff above them) Mitchell (Paolo Andino) pleas for his wife Adrienne (Tessa Klein) to join their coffee clutch, Ms. Metzler has the opportunity to examine motherhood from yet another angle. Adrienne - an immensely successful and ambitious jewelry maker who struggled to have a child - faces questions about how to balance motherhood and a career that are different from the ones Jessie and Lina must ponder. While it is difficult for her husband, Lina, and Jessie to understand her perspective (to the point where they all think she's crazy, incredibly rude, and/or depressed), her views on motherhood - while initially a source of mystery - are no less valid as articulated by the playwright. Adrienne's viewpoint is not one that's often welcome in mainstream media so I appreciated it being included; the play is definitely not the same old, same old.
At the end of the day, all three women must grapple with some difficult choices, informed greatly by their unique socioeconomic circumstances. There are no right or wrong answers about what to do and the situations they face are far from black and white.
Metzler is adept at focusing our attention on each of the women and how they interact with each other while also quietly encouraging us to think about a variety of larger issues whether they impact us personally or not.
Top-notch, believable acting from the entire cast allows us to go along with the characters on their emotional rollercoasters. The playwright is skilled at seamlessly transitioning from the fun and lighthearted moments to the serious ones and each actor is equipped with the skill to play them just as seamlessly under Joanie Schultz's intelligent direction.
The strength of the play and the acting make this production worth your attention whether you are a member of the mommy brigade or not.
Running Time: 95 minutes with no intermission
CRY IT OUT plays at Studio Theatre - located at 1501 14th Street in Washington, DC - through December 16, 2018. Tickets can be purchased online or by calling the box office at 202-332-3300.