Maybe audiences watching the deeply felt new mother issues playing out at Northlight Theatre’s “Cry It Out” remember when, about a decade ago, such child-parent support concerns as maternity/paternity leave and day-care availability were in the news. Companies even were rated as best to work for regarding those benefits.
Those worries are potently brought to life again in playwright Molly Smith Metzler’s “Cry It Out.”
Author of the highly successful “Elemeno Pea” that premiered in 2011 at the Actors Theatre of Louisville as part of the Humana Festival of New American Plays, Metzler’s “Cry It Out” was commissioned by the Actors Theatre and then premiered there last year.
BTW, cry it out is a phrase some people use for letting a baby bawl until worn out instead of picking the child up, walking with it or taking other soothing actions. But Metzler’s play goes far deeper than baby-rearing techniques.
It grapples with a parent’s staying home or going back to work options and how those options aren’t open to women when husbands don’t agree or when finances enter the picture.
In “Cry It Out,” audiences meet Jesse (Darci Nalepa), a NYC attorney who only wants to stay home with her baby, nurse it, take it with her shopping which she enjoys as an outing and to the library for story time.
She is not interested in returning to her well-known Manhattan firm where she is supposed to become a partner. But she hasn’t yet told her husband who has a low-paying job.
Looking for some understanding female companionship, she invites new mother Lina (Laura Lapidus), a neighbor she sees at the Shop-and Go, to come over for coffee. They meet twice a day in Jesse’s yard while their babies sleep but they are confined to a space that is within their baby-monitor’s signal.
Their backgrounds are different, with Jesse a quiet-spoken, highly educated professional married into a family that highly regards seaside summer cottages and Lina, an exuberant, friendly, foul-mouthed new mother who will shortly be returning to her work in a hospital.
A third component brings a different perspective when Mitchell (Gabriel Ruiz ) a wealthy, but shy male, stops by to ask if the two women would be okay inviting his wife who just had a baby to join them.
Lina isn’t sure that’s a good idea because she and Jesse have now bonded over their baby rearing and their Manorhaven neighborhood connections while Mitchell and wife Adrienne (Kristina Valada-Viars) live in a multi-million dollar home on the Sands Point cliff above them. Indeed, Mitchell admits they have even watched Jesse and Lina through a telescope.
Adrienne’s meeting with them doesn’t go well because she is rude, on her iPad the whole time and doesn’t appear interested in nursing or child rearing. But upon learning her name, the two women admire her famous high end jewelry.
She leaves when Jesse has to go to her baby, accidentally taking the iPad that had Adrienne’s baby’s photos on it. When Mitchell comes back to pick it up later he asks Jesse to call Adrienne and invite her back.
Metaler’s play, however, has four sides, not three. Fourth is Mitchell as a stay-at-home dad. Unhappy with his own childhood experience, and not understanding of his wife’s attitudes, he decides to take a six-month leave from the company he owns, to take care of their new child.
Directed by Jessicas Fisch, all the actors in this small cast are excellent as they present different aspects of how what they want is not what they can have.
Nalepa is quiet at first in contrast to Lapidus who sometimes plays her loud, friendly but less educated role as a caricature of a type of New Yorker. But the two are terrific as Lapidus encourages Nalepa to practice on her what she will tell her husband about not wanting to go back to work and not caring about making enough money to have a seaside summer cottage.
Lapidus is best in her hospital scrubs when she does have to go back to work and learns upon returning that her boyfriend’s mother who promised not to drink while caring for the baby was drunk and only fed the baby once during the day.
Valada-Viars whose character’s high-end lifestyle and career focus might not endear her to audiences, is excellent as she bursts out with her problems and how what is right for one new mother is not going to work for another and that people should not be judgmental.
Ruiz beautifully puts across his character of a concerned father who really would like to share child-rearing thoughts and experiences with the two women at their coffee klatch.
Scenic designer Andrew Boyce’s set and Stephanie Cluggish’s costumes created just the right background for the play.
The action takes place in the backyard of Jesse’s duplex in Port Washington, NY, a Long Island suburb where Metzler moved from NYC when she was pregnant. So yes, the play is somewhat autobiographical.
The experience revealed to her how isolated a new mother might feel when she doesn’t know anyone and the one car owned is used by the husband to get to work.
While feeling lonely, Metzler explains in the Northlight program that she met another new mom who only had that aspect in common with her but it didn’t matter.
“The experience of having a baby really cracks your career open, your marriage open, your identity open… and its mom friends who support you and get you through it all,” she says in the playbill.
DETAILS: “Cry it Out” is a Northlight Theatre, 9501 Skokie Boulevard, Skokie, through June 17. Runnng time: 1 hr, 40 min., no intermission. For tickets and other information call (847) 673-6300 or visit Northlight.
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