Reviewing Theatre For Over 40 Years
The Conundrums of Motherhood in the Modern World: Echo Theater’s “Cry It Out”
July 18, 2018Posted by on
There is nothing quite so visceral, quite so individualistic in response, or quite so romanticized as becoming a new mother. These days the pressures of income and expectation, and the internal (or sometimes external) battle for a woman between motherhood and career can play out in a vast variety of ways, and can often be difficult to express convincingly to anyone who has not gone through them. Which is what makes Molly Smith Metzler’s “Cry It Out,” from The Echo Theater Company at Atwater Village Theatre important to see.
In the play, which makes its west coast premiere with this production, one woman’s home space becomes the crossroad for three women and one man dealing with the daily struggles and priority changes inherent in both the process of having and bringing home a first child.
Jessie Gelb, a young lawyer on leave, invites her neighbor Lina for coffee in her back yard, desperate to talk to another new mother in a commuter suburb of New York. Lina, from south shore Long Island, is everything Jessie is not – rough around the edges, plain talking, and dependent upon the largess of the alcoholic mother-in-law with whom she lives.
As they bond over the joys and struggles of the first few months of motherhood – baby monitors in hand – their peaceful retreat is invaded by a seemingly desperate, wealthy stranger. He has been watching their meetings from his pricey cliffside home, and envies the bond they have formed. This, in turn, leads to a brief encounter with his wife, a woman whose experience of new motherhood is on a different spectrum from Jessie’s and Lina’s.
Jackie Chung is Jessie, making her a neat balance of anxious vulnerability and growing confidence. Chung’s nuanced emotional palate sets a tone of realism which makes the play connect so internally with those who watch. Megan Ketch’s Lina brings a passion and brassy humor set again in the real, underscoring the two characters’ bond – one they would probably not have in circumstances other than new motherhood – by never giving in to easy attitudes.
Brian Henderson’s briefer appearance as the somewhat panicked Mitchell, offers a compelling look at what happens when idealized hopes and less than ideal realities collide. There is a wistfulness in his portrayal of his character’s lack of observational acuity, which underscores his role as outsider. Emily Swallow’s powerful, disquieting Adrienne – Mitchell’s wife – will spur discussions of class, character, and priority, even in in one’s own head, and brings a needed sharpness to what could otherwise become a more predictable play.
Director Lindsay Allbaugh truly understands these people, and makes this dialogue-heavy piece fill with movement and moments of visual intensity which give it power. Francois-Pierre Couture’s seemingly simple set design, combined with Rose Malone’s subtle lighting changes, give a sense of season and openness which flesh in, and humanize, the tale.
“Cry It Out” – a title superficially referencing the debate about whether to leave babies to cry themselves to sleep – is a play of priorities and impressions, of empathy and disconnect. These characters face the choices many new parents face in the modern world, few of which are easy. Funny, wrenching, and achingly recognizable as truth, the play will definitely leave an impression, and one worth mulling over.
What: “Cry It Out” When: through August 19, 8 p.m. Wednesdays, Thursdays, Fridays and Mondays, 4 p.m. Sundays. Where: The Echo Theater Company at Atwater Village Theatre, 3269 Casitas Ave. in Los Angeles. How Much: $34 except Mondays, which are Pay-What-You-Want. Info: (310) 307-3753 or www.EchoTheaterCompany.com