This show is the embodiment of “Being a mom has made me so tired. And so happy” (Tina Fey). It’s a joyful ode to sisterhood as well. The playwright, Molly Smith Metzler, doesn’t shy away from the hard choices that parents, but especially mothers, have to make in our society. But she does it deftly, with a light touch, humor, and yes, tears. Metzler is an award-winning writer (“Shameless,” “Orange is the New Black”), and her ability to dig into the weeds and pull back for a panorama in words is beautifully showcased in this work. The four actors bring it to vivid and immediate life.
This play reminds us of something very important — that a whole range of motherhood is possible, and all have humor, joy, and sorrow. This production accomplishes this with a cast that sizzles and leaves us wanting more.
Simply, yet vividly staged at Everyman Theatre, this quartet of talent doesn’t shy away from the beauty and burdens of motherhood. The chemistry between the two moms that live next door to each other (Megan Anderson as Lina and Beth Hylton as Jessie) is so flawless that you almost feel you are eavesdropping on their conversations.
They met when Lina “hurdled the cantaloupes” at the Stop-N-Shop to meet Jessie. They may live next door, but for new mothers with infants, meeting up is hard. We are introduced to them when they meet up later that same day to have coffee in Jessie’s back yard. The bonding is compassionate and a little tentative at first, but Anderson, who has comic timing to spare, really brings in the earthiness and joy. Lina and Jessie may have different backgrounds and socio-economic circumstances, but they click. You can almost see their shoulders drop as they realize they have a friend and ally.
After a few weeks, a man (Tony Nam as Mitchell) appears in the back yard, dressed for success, with his briefcase, and with an odd request. He lives on the hill above the neighborhood where the friends do (in the rich people’s section of town). He’s concerned about his wife, Adrienne (an angry and hurt Laura C. Harris) because he feels she has never bonded with the baby. He has come to ask if they would let her join them for coffee that afternoon.
From there, the story takes an unexpected turn. It flows so naturally that, even as it delves deeper into the expectations that American society has for mothers, coupled with a near-universal lack of any support system, the friendship between Jessie and Lina is deepening. Then Adrienne lets loose with some unexpected truths about her life (that had me picturing Mary Wollstonecraft nodding and saying, “preach it, sister”) that add another layer of complexity. It makes us look at her husband’s worries in a whole new light. In some ways, Nam has the hardest role as he has to stand in for the everyman. Nam takes his surrogacy and gives him depth, as you watch him slowly evolving by the play’s end.
The entire cast does a wonderful job. As their characters face realities that impinge on what they want and wish for, you feel for them. At the end, you want to fast forward a year or so and check back in again. That’s a marriage of brilliant writing and acting.
Director Vincent M. Lancisi mines the humor in the script and balances the all the conflicting emotions and expectations inherent in their worlds. Lawrence E. Moten, III designed the simple set of a couple of weathered risers, a plastic children’s play slide/seat structure, patio table, and chairs. Somehow it conveys both the expansion and contraction of their world as new mothers. Through the lighting by Sarah Tundermann, we get a sense of a town on Long Island near the sea, but still in a working class (although gentrifying) neighborhood. Heather C. Jackson designed the costumes, which looked Starbucks-ready especially for Lina and Jessie; Kathy Ruvuna handled sound design; and Gary Logan was the dialect coach.
This play reminds us of something very important — that a whole range of motherhood is possible, and all have humor, joy, sorrow, and choices that are rarely as encompassing as we want. This production accomplishes this with a cast that sizzles and leaves us wanting more.
Show Advisory: Adult language.
Running Time: Approximately one hour and 40 minutes without intermission.
“Cry It Out” runs through April 11, 2021 online, presented by Everyman Theatre, Baltimore, MD. Once tickets are purchased, there is a 48-hour window to watch the show. For more information, please click here.