Theater Review / Both funny and emotional, Cry it Out is relevant for our times

By Joanna Brady

Cry it Out, a new play by Molly Smith Metzler, explores the pressures of new moms caught up in a transitional stage of their lives—wanting to stay home and tend their babies, while needing to go back to work to afford things they feel will offer their kids a better life.

Director Joy Hawkins discovered the play at the Humana Festival of New Plays in Louisville, KY last year, and realized that with the richness of talent we have here, she could cast it perfectly in Key West.

And so she has. Two neighbors, Lina and Jessie, are played by Erin McKenna and Zoe Hawkins Wells respectively. McKenna plays a flamboyant but loving mom—a  hospital admittance clerk with a checkered past and kooky relatives—who entertains us with her hilarious crudeness, gyrations, and turns of phrase.

Jesse is socially a cut above; an attorney on the fast track about to make Partner of a New York law firm, now on maternity leave. But caught up in the novelty of motherhood, she wants nothing more than to throw it all over to stay home with her new baby.

Motherhood is a great leveler, and the two women have found common ground that blurs socio-economic disparities that might divide them under normal circumstances. Their focus is almost exclusively on their babies.

Enter Adrienne (Amber McDonald Good), a beautiful, aloof, wealthy neighbor. Her husband, Mitch (Michael Castellano) nudges her to join the ‘new mommy club’ over coffee. Adrienne goes once to placate him, but wants no part of the coffee klatsch circuit. She’s a high end jewelry designer who decided early to carry on with her career and skip the soul-searching ‘should I or shouldn’t I go back to work?’ stage of motherhood. Her work is her life and she never really leaves it. But Adrienne lives in a constant state of rage over the inequality of marriage and motherhood, and this has driven her and Mitch to couples counseling.  

The acting in this play is superb. Zoe Hawkins Wells is terrific as the quintessential mom, level-headed, conciliatory, and soft spoken—with only the occasional cuss. Erin McKenna plays her role of the breezy, earthy mother in an authentic ‘Goodfellas’ accent with energy and élan. Amber McDonald Good turns in a wonderful, polished performance, with a couple of heated emotional outbursts that contain some very funny lines. An excellent actor, Michael Castellano is convincing as Mitch, the sincere, distraught new father who wants to make things right.

The inclusion of Castellano’s character was purposeful. It would be a mistake to label Cry It Out as a ‘chick play’ for women. This play is about broader issues buried deep in our psyches, like parental bonding and self-realization. It’s about division of labor, relationships, resentment, and the disruption that a new family member—whether baby or mother-in-law—introduces into our lives. Finally, it’s all about love, and how we choose to bestow this powerful emotion. Castellano’s involvement helps bring all that to bear in this 90-minute play. (No intermission)

Watching Cry it Out, I was transported back to my own post-partum days in the ‘burbs, sipping coffee and commiserating with other new moms about the hormonal changes in our bodies, our way of thinking, and our lives. The real issues that bubble to the surface in this play are not much different now. What is different is that more high paid positions are available to women, luring them back to the rat race. And there are more options for kids—expensive options that necessitate a double income.

Kudos to Gary McDonald, Jack McDonald, and Rick Worth for the fabulous trompe l’oeil set, which appears to enlarge the whole stage, turning it into an expansive backyard.

While not a comedy per se, this play has some very funny moments. It’s terrific entertainment! Go see it.

Cry it Out runs Tuesdays to Saturdays through May 5 at the Red Barn Theatre, located at 319 Duval St. (Rear). Curtains at 8:00 p.m. Call (305) 296-9911 or go to
(Joanna Brady is a local writer, author of the historical novel of Key West, The Woman at the Light, published by St. Martin’s Press)