Award-winning playwright Molly Smith Metzler’s Cry It Out is a beautiful commentary on real life. The struggles of parenting in an age of never enough. An homage to working parents and stay-at-homers alike. A true heart-wrenching, well, cry for acknowledgement of the fierce battle moms and dads endure with themselves, their partners, their families, and society over what is the correct way to be a parent. (Hint: there is no one way).
In a 2018 interview from American Theatre Magazine, Metzler describes the issue perfectly:
New parenthood is the perfect lens through which to examine socio-economics. People talk about going back to work after you have a child like it’s always a choice. Or they make it a feminist issue, making new mothers feel like they’re stuck in the 1950s if they want to stay home, or they’re cold-hearted careerists if they don’t want to stay home. We make it black and white, and we’re so judgmental. But it’s a very complicated, personal, emotional, and financial thing.
Everyman Theatre’s current production of Cry It Out is available now for streaming and comes at a time when the already hard task of parenting has been further complicated by a pandemic, throwing households into uncharted territory with quarantines, remote working, and distanced learning.
Their original production was pre-COVID but was shelved and then revitalized to its current format. The show is recorded but still presented as a stage show, so it feels like a play, with the bonus of stage-side seats and a pause button for bathroom breaks.
Vincent M. Lancisi directed the show, which takes place entirely in the backyard of a suburban home. The linking point of three different economies.
New moms Lina (Megan Anderson) and Jessie (Beth Hylton) are strangers, living in the same neighborhood, desperate for adult interaction. They have arranged to meet for coffee in Jessie’s backyard during their babies’ nap times. Limited by the range of their baby monitors, they settle on sitting on a playset.
Over the course of many coffee meetings, the two develop a solid, and much needed, friendship. Anderson and Hylton have a wonderful chemistry and, while their characters seem like an unlikely match at first, they connect over their new roles and form a genuine bond.
They discuss many things, but the main focus is returning to work. Jessie wants to leave her job of nine years to be a stay-at-home mom but is scared to broach the topic with her husband. Lina is going back to work soon because staying home is not a financial option, but she worries about her mother-in-law’s reliability in childcare. Their reasons are complicated and a source of anxiety and stress for them both.
Adding a third voice to this discussion is Mitchell, played by Tony Nam. Tony is also a new dad, and he has seen the ladies meetings from his house in the richer neighborhood that overlooks Lin and Jessie’s homes. He approaches them, hoping to request an invite for his wife, who is struggling with being a new mom.
Though apprehensive about welcoming a stranger into the fold, the ladies agree, and the following day they meet Adrienne (Laura C. Harris).
Adrienne is a full-time working mom. She went back to her very demanding job almost immediately and has no interest in becoming friends with the ladies. She’s come to coffee simply to appease her worrisome husband. And the topic becomes heated.
Assumptions of postpartum depression, stereotypes of what motherhood should look like, and financial impossibilities throw the coffee group into turmoil.
There’s a lot to unpack and the complexity of each family’s conflicts are vastly varied. Three couples. Three very different dynamics. Making the hard choices for the sake of their children.
And there is no blanket right or wrong way to survive and thrive as a parent. Resources are not equally distributed. One mom’s ability to stay home is another’s pipe dream. One’s dedication to their career is another’s seeming neglect.
But one thing that is constant is judgment and pressure. And this play shines a light directly on that. An implicit bias that our culture has woven into our skins while we were just trying to make ends meet. An expectation of behavior and sacrifice that manifests as a vanilla image of mom caring for kids, men at work, and all other variations lacking.
There are many things to love about Everyman Theatre’s Cry It Out. The cast is outstanding, and the four actors bring an understanding to each perspective in a very raw and realistic way.
It would have been interesting to add the view of a single parent to this conversation, but that is less of a criticism and more of a suggestion to further the conversation of parenting in the 21st century.
Playwright Metzler takes the issue of stay-at-home versus working parents, which has for decades been seen as a “woman’s” issue, and presents it as a family issue. Exploring the socio-economic aspect that drives much of the decision making. And the emotional toll these decisions can make on a family.
Cry It Out is an emotional journey that any parent can connect to and any hopeful future parents can learn from. With a compelling cast and professional production, Everyman Theatre has created an incredible piece of art that truly reflects life, portrayed through a lens of self-reflection and hope.
Cry It Out can be streamed into homes through April 11, 2021. Tickets are available online. For more information on this production, Everyman’s 30th-anniversary season, the organization’s COVID safety plan, Frequently Asked Questions about returning to live theater, or other Education and Community classes and events, call 410-752-2208 or visit everymantheatre.org.
Lina: Megan Anderson; Adrienne: Laura C . Harris; Jessie: Beth Hylton; Mitchell: Tony Nam
Direction and Design
Vincent M. Lancisi: Director/Founder/Artistic Director, Molly Smith Metzler: Playwright; Gary Logan: Dialects; Scenic Design: Lawrence E. Moten, III; Lighting Design: Sarah Tundermann; Costume Design: Heather C . Jackson; Sound Design: Kathy Ruvuna; Stage Manager: Cat Wallis; Original Stage Manager: Paul Mills Holmes; Daniel Allen: Associate Set Designer
Director of Production: Amanda M. Hall; Technical Director: Bill Jamieson; Asst. Technical Director: Rick Gerriets; Audio/Video Supervisor: Andrew Gaylin; Lighting Supervisor: Juan Juarez; Properties Artisan: Michael Rasinski; Scene Shop Supervisor: Trevor Wilhelms; Lead Scenic Carpenter: Joseph Martin; House Carpenter: Sierra Ho; Deck Manager: Julia Junghans; Asst. Stage Managers: Erica Feidelseit, Molly Prunty; Scenic Charge: Amy Kellett; Scenic Artist: Christa Ladny; Costume Construction: David Burdick, Matthew Smith; Carpenters: Sarah Blocher, Josh Cookson, Julia Junghans, James Ladow, Rhianne Lowe, Caelan Levine Northrup, Christopher Rutherford, J.R. Schroyer, Charles Whittington, Monty Wilson; Electricians: Josh Cookson, Jesse Herche, Brandon Ingle, Kirsten Jolly, Ben Levine, Maisie Mccord, Ryan Whiteman