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Regional Reviews: Connecticut & the Berkshires

Cry It Out
Hartford Stage
Review by Fred Sokol | Season Schedule

Also see Zander's review of Woody Sez: The Life and Music of Woody Guthrie and Fred's review of American Son


Rachel Spencer Hewitt and Evelyn Spahr
Photo by T Charles Erickson
Cry It Out, at Hartford Stage, brings both light and somewhat darker comedy to the fore as Molly Smith Metzler's sharp dialogue zeroes in on parenting infants. Continuing through November 17th, it features four actors whose timing is excellent. Rachel Alderman's direction assists as the 90-minute piece begins by drawing loud and deserving laughter while it grows more contemplative past midpoint.

Premiering in 2017 and produced often across the country over the past couple of years, Cry It Out first finds two women who are neighbors in Port Washington, Long Island, trying to cope with anxieties, As they gather on a suitably scuffed-up patch of backyard (thanks to designer Kristen Robinson), each wants to make certain that baby monitors are in range and fully operative. Lina (Evelyn Spahr) is working class, living with her boyfriend and his mother, and soon to return to work at a nearby hospital. Spahr's gruff, gritty accent is perfect, given her upbringing in the oceanside town of Long Beach. Jessie (Rachel Spencer Hewitt) has moved from Chicago, and her unseen husband is a native of north shore Long Island. Call them middle class, maybe upper middle class. Jessie has taken leave of her law firm and, an established attorney, she would rather stay at home. She had an emergency C-section and realizes she's lucky to have a perfectly healthy daughter. Lina needs money, so she hasn't an option regarding employment. These two women open the show with a back-and-forth that is written with a nice combination of overstatement, wit and compassion. Clearly, playwright Metzler knows the geographic and emotional territories. Spahr and Hewitt are precise and winning.

Next on the scene is Mitchell (Erin Gann), who lives nearby in Sands Point, a community of wealth. He has, literally, been looking down from a cliff where he lives at Jessie and Lina. Mitchell watches, from his own home, as the women share stories. He awkwardly but forcefully asks Linda and Jessie if his wife Adrienne (Caroline Kinsolving) could come around and join the other two women some afternoon. Adrienne (even her wardrobe as furnished by Blair Gulledge is haughty) arrives with no interest but plenty of disdain. She is a famous designer of jewelry, is concerned, seemingly, only about herself, and is disgusted that her husband has facilitated the get-together with the other women. Adrienne is quick-tempered and quite furious that others think her daughter's name is Olivia when it is actually Livia. She is more than a tad upset that her career has been halted for a time. Adrienne is glued to her iPad. Suffice to say, however, there is more to her.

The beginning portion of the production is basic, cathartic and fun. Jessie has a pedigree education and Lina's nearly every line includes profanity. The women genuinely like and feel for one another. They are first-time mothers who must navigate everything from breast-feeding to men's moods. In Lina's case, there's the presence of her boyfriend's mother (who evidently sometimes watches the baby) who drinks wine far too often. Jessie is not certain about her marriage. Throughout, the monetary aspect cannot be forgotten. Port Washington is a place where many but not all people are well-to-do.

Molly Smith Metzler's play is one of three sections: the introduction is audience pleasing; the second is philosophical; the conclusion is serious and insightful. The scripting requires range from all actors. While one might sense stereotypes through the first 45 or 50 minutes, that notion is soon dispelled—all four characters have added dimensions. The play evolves from humorous romp to complex exploration of difficult territory.

Cry It Out, with a title derived from the theory that if one leaves a baby in the crib, he or she will eventually calm and sleep, succeeds through four affecting and well-formulated performances. All of the performers are convincing and each portrays her character with whatever is required. That might include agitation, compassion or intensity.

Cry It Out runs through November 17, 2019, at Hartford Stage, 50 Church St., Hartford CT. For tickets and information, call 860-527-5151 or visit www.hartfordstage.org.


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