Kylie Young (left) and Katee Drysdale in "Cry It Out." Photo by Daren Scott
Jessie just had a baby. Now she’s got a serious case of mommy-it is.
Lina just had a baby. No worries. She’s got this.
Adrienne just had a baby. She’s angry – about everything.
New motherhood, with its highest of highs and lowest of lows, is the subject of Molly Smith Metzler’s “Cry It Out,” a 90-minute drama that is kicking off Moxie Theatre’s 19th season and is its first curated show from new executive artistic director Desiree Clarke Miller. Vanessa Duron, Moxie’s associate artistic director, directs this production that stars Katee Drysdale as Jessie, Kylie Young as Lina, Leah Morgan as Adrienne and Alex Guzman as Adrienne’s harried husband Mitchell.
Obviously I’ve never had a baby and I’ve never even had one around the house, so I can’t fully appreciate the joys and trials of motherhood. What I can appreciate are the feelings that must be overwhelming, especially to new mothers, who not only have gone through the physical demands of bringing a new life into the world but the emotional and psychological challenges that follow, including the upturning of the lives they once knew.
“Cry It Out” attempts to articulate these feelings and challenges. That it takes an hour and a half to do so feels redundant, and the unexpected and flat ending adds up to a rather unsatisfying play that mines familiar territory.
Sincere performances by both Drysdale, also exceptional earlier this year in Scripps Ranch Theatre’s “Lost in Yonkers,” and Young can’t make up for the middling script. The cultivated sounding Jessie, a successful attorney on the verge of partnership, and Lena, a hospital worker living with her baby daddy and his alcoholic mother, become fast friends, hanging out in Jessie’s backyard with their smartphones functioning as baby-cams. The more brash, cynical Lina also boasts the thick Long Island accent. They’re like Mary and Rhoda 50 years later: Sweet, unselfish Jessie almost too nice to be true, and the earthier, wisecracking Lina, refusing to take crap from anyone.
But here’s where the credibility is stretched. We’re told that a neighbor up the hill, Mitchell, has been watching the two friends during their between-baby-care coffee klatches in the yard THROUGH A TELESCOPE. He shows up at the backyard uninvited one day and asks them if his wife, who he says is showing zero interest in their new baby, can hang out with them. Sweet, unselfish Jessie assents, even though wisecracking (and the more wise) Lina thinks it’s a nervy, crackpot idea.
Mitchell’s wife proves Lina right when she does show up, having been driven over by a nanny (one with a graduate degree in child development, of course), and proceeds to give new meaning to the word rude.
Sweet Jessie’s reaction is to be concerned and to worry and wonder about rude Adrienne constantly and to continue to invite her over again. Lina? Not buying it.
Where this heads is not good, for any of them.
So Metzler’s point? Motherhood is hard? No two (or three) mothers are the same? There’s no handbook for the job?
I think she wants to comment on the crisis young working mothers endure when deciding between their jobs and staying home with their new babies. But these Long Islanders, Lina’s financial woes notwithstanding, don’t seem representative of the kinds of mothers who really and truly ache to the core when trying to make such a decision.
The title of the play suggests too that emotions shouldn’t be suppressed in making these trying decisions, that it indeed is better to cry it out.
That doesn’t get sweet Jessie anywhere, and the same could be said for the more sympathetic Lina. As for Adrienne, her character is drawn so one-note that when she tries to get real late in the play, it isn’t at all convincing.
Drysdale can’t help but be winning even with the limitations of her role. Minus the too-heavy accent, Young is a genuine presence in those backyard coffee klatches. Morgan is saddled with that aforementioned one-note role – the most dramatic thing she gets to do is throw eggs at Jessie’s house.
Guzman does a mighty fine panic attack; otherwise he’s compelled to be merely neurotic.
Alyssa Kane’s Manorhaven backyard is a pleasant place for Jessie and Lina to hang out, while the lighting by Sierra Shreves and Colby Freel organically change the setting from day to night or vice versa as called for.
The fact is, everybody tries their damnedest to make “Cry It Out” work, but there’s only so much that can be done with a play that comes with built-in narrative flaws and not enough true catharses.
“Cry It Out” runs through Sept. 10 at Moxie Theatre in Rolando.
David L. Coddon is a Southern California theater critic.