The plight of modern-day moms attempting to balance it all is explored from various points of view in “Cry It Out”, Molly Smith Metzler’s contemporary comic drama currently in its Connecticut Premiere as the season-opener for the Thrown Stone Theatre Company. It’s the third season for Ridgefield’s eclectic theatre troupe which will be offering “Cry It Out” in rotating repertoire with another new play, “Birds of North America” by Anna Moench. At press time that play was opening on July 17 and will be reviewed next week.
Set in a bucolic backyard in Port Washington, New York, “Cry It Out” introduces new moms Jessie (Clare Parme) and Lina (Maria McConville) who live in neighboring duplexes and become fast friends after a meeting at the food store. As they tentatively reach out to each other, it soon becomes clear they are total opposites. The prim, married Jessie is an attorney on maternity leave with a wealthy husband. Lina is a tough New Jersey girl on leave from her entry level job at the local hospital living with the father of her child and his mother. They have absolutely nothing in common except being new mothers. Of course, the dictates of a play like this insists that this odd couple bond immediately. Which they do.
It’s to the credit of the playwright that she is exploring topics of motherhood, economics and the expectations of women in the workplace that will no doubt resonate with many. In doing so, however, she seems to rely firmly on stereotypes especially with the character of Lina who could have just dropped in from TV’s “Jersey Shore”. Ms. McConville is a game player, however, and often very funny even when many of her punchlines rely heavily on pop culture references, a sign of lazy writing that also features no less than three characters off-stage and on who are alcoholics.
Despite the contrived and not always credible situation, Parme and McConville have an easy, welcome chemistry that garners a lot of good will as the story progresses. In supporting roles Wynter Kullman, as a troubled young mother who may or may not be suffering from postpartum depression, has a vivid stage presence even in an underwritten part. Thrown Stone Co-Artistic Director Jonathan Winn is also featured in a rather odd role as her husband who reaches out to Jessie and Lina on behalf of his wife. It is either a problem of the writing or the performance that Winn comes off as both creepy and sweet in the role. He also has a tendency to speak very softly and, even in an intimate space like Thrown Stone, it was sometimes difficult to hear the actor.
It’s hard to deny, however, the power of the lead performances and the various issues that are addressed in Metzler’s play. Director Gina Pulice often has her actors wandering aimlessly about Fufan Zhang’s nicely detailed backyard setting, but her direction of the women Is strong throughout especially notable in Parme’s haunting final line. “Cry It Out” has also been announced as part of Hartford Stage’s new season and it will be interesting to see what a larger venue and different director approaching this uneven work will reveal.
“Cry It Out” continues at Thrown Stone Theatre Company through July 28. For further information or ticket reservations call: (203) 442-1714 or visit: www.thrownstone.org.
Tom Holehan is one of the founders of the Connecticut Critics Circle, a frequent contributor and resident critic of WPKN Radio’s “State of the Arts” program and Artistic Director of Stratford’s Square One Theatre Company. He welcomes comments at: email@example.com. His reviews and other theatre information can be found on the Connecticut Critics Circle website: www.ctcritics.org.