Thursday, July 25, 2019

Review of "Cry It Out"

Raising a newborn can make for unlikely friendships and interpersonal interactions. In playwright Molly Smith Metzler’s thought-provoking comedy-drama Cry It Out, two women, neighbors from different socio-economic worlds, nonetheless begin to bond as they navigate the intimidating, sometimes unnerving responsibility of caring for a nursing child.  Added to their anxiety, and producing a bit of drama on its own, is the sudden appearance of another neighbor looking to have his wife included in the duo’s daily get-togethers.  

Jessie (Clare Parme), a high-powered lawyer on leave from her New York City firm, lives in an apartment with her financier husband on Long Island’s North Shore.  Lina (Maria McConville), residing next door with her husband in her mother-in-law’s home, is an entry level hospital worker originally from the South Shore with a brash demeanor and bearing. On the surface, they are as dissimilar as two people could possibly be, but when it comes to caring, fretting, and loving a newborn child differences quickly evaporate. At first, Jessie invites Lina over for coffee. Their initial encounter is awkward and forced, but as their backyard meetings continue their tentative relationship grows into a real friendship.  Enter Mitchell, a well-to-do entrepreneur who lives on a ridge overlooking Jessie’s yard.  He asks the women if his wife, who recently gave birth, could become part of their soirees.  Reluctantly, Jessie and Lina agree, but the arranged tryst with his wife Adrienne (Wynter Kullman) does not go so well.  Soon, challenging changes take place, altering each person’s familial dynamics.

Playwright Metzler deftly brings out many issues women face after childbirth—emotional bearing, marital relationships, and the question of staying home or returning to work.  The conversations appear real and heartfelt.  The title of her work pertains to the impassioned outbursts each woman makes towards the latter part of the 90-minute production.  While a resolution is not necessarily needed for the show, a more layered conclusion would have been less abrupt than what is presented.
The cast is uniformly fine with Maria McConville, as Lina, having the juiciest, in-your-face role.  The actress consistently has the best comedic lines.  While, initially, appearing like a complete fool, she turns in a more nuanced, warmhearted performance.  Clare Parme gives her character Jessie a multifaceted look.  You can feel her inner turmoil as she debates what is best for her and her young family. Wynter Kullman’s first appearance on stage as Adrienne comes across as a stereotypically rich, unfeeling member of society, but demonstrates you can’t judge a book by its cover.  Jonathan Winn is somewhat formal in his characterization of Mitchell.  More subtlety or shading to the role would have added to his scenes. 

Director Gina Piulice eases out genuine sounding conversations amongst the cast and effectively sets up the laugh lines for maximum effect.  However the placement and movement of the actors comes across as artificial.  Whereas most individuals would be close together when conversing, she continually places them at one of the four corners of the small performance space, constantly moving them around instead of having them seated for their heart-to-hearts.

Cry It Out, playing at the Thrown Stone theater company in Ridgefield through July 21st.

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