Just Theater. presents
in association with Custom Made Theatre
CRY IT OUT
by Molly Smith Metzler
directed by Molly Aaronson-Gelb
Custom Made Theatre
August 9 - September 1, 2019.
Review by Kedar K. Adour, MD
A powerful, disquieting Cry it Out by Just Theater at Custom Made
In a 1985 book “Solve Your Child’s Sleep Problem” the “cry it out” method suggested that allowing the infant to cry back to sleep rather than cuddle and feed them was an appropriate solution. The title of Molly Smith Metzler’s play Cry It Out that is being given a powerful, thoughtful and at times humorous staging by Just Theater at Custom Made’s intimate venue. It tangentially mentions that method. However this play is really a case study of the effects of motherhood on three specific women and three strata of society. Didactic? No. Truthful, disturbing? Yes. But it is a story that needs telling.
In today’s world the stay at home “mom” may be a desirable option but is often not possible. Yes, parental leave is sometimes available after giving birth but the length of time allowed is limited and the practical need to return to work may be paramount. There is also the need for new mothers to seek companionship with others in similar circumstances. Jessie has reached out to neighbor Lina who is also a recent mother. Their worlds are often limited by the range of the baby monitors and Jessie’s unadorned backyard is within that range and serves as the meeting site for their daily encounters over the proverbial cups of coffee.
Metzler is a master at weaving the back stories through the pair’s everyday conversation. Lina is from a working class family and has lived a chaotic life and is now forced to live with her mother-in law. The return to her low level hospital job is a necessity. Jessie is a Columbia trained lawyer who is reaching the level of partnership and has had an emergency Caesarian Section to save the life of her infant daughter. This traumatic birth instills in her the strong desire not return to work but rather to nurture her infant daughter. She has not informed her upper-middle class successful husband. They can afford a day-care provider.
The interaction of these two mothers has been observed by Mitchell from his home up on the hill in a wealthy enclave. He develops enough courage to visit Lina and Jessie requesting that they allow his wife Adriene to join their afternoon coffee club. Adriene is high-pressure highly successful jewelry designer who in seven weeks has not once touched her newborn infant. Mitchell sets up an “appointment” for Adriene to join the group. It is a bad bad idea and when Adriene arrives in knee-high leather boots dressed in skintight clothing indicating her body, unlike Lina and Jessie, has no signs of the ravages of childbirth and breast feeding. She has not given up a day of work and has hired a staff to look after her daughter Liva. . . just Liva without the “O.” It is a supercharged meeting and she does not stay.
When Mitchell returns a conversation with Jessie suggests that Adriene may have post-partum depression that he relays this to his wife. This sets up a fantastic dramatic scene when Adriene storms back and confronts Jessie, The background of her situation with multiple unsuccessful in-vitro fertilization and years of psychotherapy stuns Jessie.
Just Theater has gathered a superb cast and director Molly Aaronson-Gelb’s pacing fits the tenor of each scene. Martha Brigham’s snappy delivery as Lina reflects her past social life and injects the necessary humor to add levity to a very disturbing social situation. Her flippancy balances the brilliant internal turmoil displayed by Lauren English’s pivotal role as the sounding board without answers for all the characters. Justin Dupuis’ muted rendition of Mitchell’s dilemma is a jewel of a performance but it is Lauren Spencer’s volatile Adriene that jolts the audience.
During the course of this 95 minute uninterrupted play you may feel like a voyeur and you will be transfixed watching this brilliant slice of motherhood with all its personal and sociological obstacles. It is a must see production.
CAST: Martha Brigham as Lina; Justin Dupuis as Mitchell; Lauren English as Jessie; and Lauren Spencer as Adriene.
CREATIVE CAST: Set Designer/Painter, Randy Wong-Westbrooke; Costume Designer, Brooke Jennings; Lighting Designer, Beth Hersh; Sound Designer, James Ard; Properties Designer Amelia Burke-Holt; Stage Manager, Toni Lynn Guidry.