Theater Review: CT Premiere Of Smith Metzler Work A Brilliant Take On New Motherhood
RIDGEFIELD — The summer season of Thrown Stone Theatre Company is underway with a take on new motherhood that places the magnitude of its inherently emotional upheaval in the microcosm of a suburban backyard.
Molly Smith Metzler’s Cry It Out is a resonant portrayal of the gamut of feelings that render new parents helpless and terrified. The actors in this performance, under the fine direction of Gina Pulice, offer heart-wrenching and humorous insight into the development of a parent.
Taking a chance, in her new home on Long Island’s tony North Shore, Jessie (played by Clare Parme) bumps into her neighbor Lina (Maria McConville) at the market and invites her over for coffee. Both have infants at home. This appears to be their only commonality. Their new roles and incumbent loneliness help to forge a bond that becomes essential.
The women begin to meet regularly in Jessie’s backyard. They talk about their babies, their mates, and their in-laws, as well as the trivialities of suburban life. They are inseparable, yet so disparate.
Jessie is educated and has wealthy in-laws, both of which provide her with options. Lina has none. She must return to work at a local hospital soon. She is the breadwinner in her blue-collar home, but she needs to depend on her mother-in-law to care for her baby son. This terrifies her.
Jessie’s in-laws have paid for a swanky daycare, as it is assumed the new mom will want to return to her law career, as she is oh so close to partnership. Neither woman can bear the thought of leaving their child to the care of anyone else.
Enter Mitchell (Jonathan Winn), a neighbor who has been watching Jessie and Lina’s coffee mornings. He thinks it would be therapeutic for his wife, Adrienne (Wynter Kullman), also a new mom, to join the two friends.
Adrienne, however, has no interest. The new parents talk about Adrienne as though she were in some sort of denial. She is not.
Not one character in this excellent play gets what they want. They all suffer soul crushing grief that can only be brought on by a love so complete, they would die for this little person.
The entire play takes place on one set — Jessie’s backyard — which is wonderfully rendered by set designer Fufan Zhang. The staging is in the round and Director Gina Pulice has choreographed movement that causes the characters to appear to be circling each other. It is effective.
The actors are all incredibly skilled and convincing.
Clare Parme’s Jessie is kind and slightly awkward as she tries to make friends, yet her maternal instincts and devotion constantly ride very close to her surface. Jessie is the kind of friend and neighbor everyone needs.
Ms McConville’s Lina is a Long Island girl whose life has not been easy, and she struggles still. She is funny and sardonic, yet when faced with the assumption, which Lina herself holds, that she is not a good mother, she gives a searing portrayal of a woman who believes she has let her child down. McConville is incredible in this role.
The ubiquitous neighbor Mitchell is reserved and slightly mysterious in the hands of Mr Winn. He gives his character an unflappable, gentle nature that is in contrast with the intensity of the women, including Ms Kullman’s Adrienne.
Ms Kullman finds her character’s essence and makes her sympathetic. She is prey to the mom-shamers while resenting the fact that successful men endure no such judgement. They both give wonderful performances.
The quality of this small production is astounding. Thrown Stone’s short annual season only amplifies the urgency to get out and see this production before it is too late.
The Connecticut premiere of Cry It Out continues to July 28, with performances at Ridgefield Conservatory of Dance, 440 Main Street (Route 35) in Ridgefield.