The dimensions of first-time motherhood are deftly explored in “Cry It Out,” a play that’s at once funny and heartbreaking in a perfect production by Simpatico Theatre. It takes place in Long Island, in the backyards between the homes of two neighbors — women with newborns who grab downtime together for coffee when the little ones nap.
That’s a tiny arena for a big subject. But in that bubble, playwright Molly Smith Metzler creates a world where the women are struggling to adapt to new lives that delight them, challenge them and — even though they’re about a half-hour by train from Penn Station — trap them. Metzler’s play offers different characters who deliver their own points of view about being moms, and it’s so well written that it never dips into polemic or seems contrived. Instead, it puts out ideas that illuminate the subject, then lets you think for yourself.
These ideas come from three women and one man, played by actors who couldn’t have been cast better.
Lina (Brandi Burgess) is a mouthy mom who lives with the father of her child and his drunken mother; she’s an entry-level hospital worker with a tough past, little money, and lots of street smarts. She’ll have no choice but to return to work, and soon. Her neighbor is Jessie (Angelica Jackson), a corporate lawyer who’s up for a partnership but can’t think about it now; she adores the time she spends with her infant and is dead set on convincing her husband that she should become a full-time mom.
These women live in the middle-class section of Manorhaven in Port Washington. On the cliff above them is the neighborhood called Sands Point, peopled by the rich and famous. One day, a Sands Point gentleman (Newton Buchanan) drops by the coffee session on his way to work. “We look down on you,” he tells the two women — a terrible kickoff to his request to allow his wife (Anita Holland) to join their coffee time. In fact, he does look down on them through his telescope, and sees baby carriages and women with baby monitors out in the yard each day.
It turns out that his wife is having a terrible time being a mom. She just can’t — won’t — get into the role. She rejects their new daughter, or at least that’s what he sees. Would they please invite her to join them?
And this is the point when the scope of “Cry It Out” widens, and we see the differences that separate new mothers by class. At first I thought the man’s wife, who does come to join the much happier women, was drawn in an extreme. But as we come to know more about her — and from her — it’s apparent that this woman and her concerns are real.
The show will delight moms and intrigue those women (and, of course, men) who aren’t. It’s filled with the little details that new life can bring to old routines: baby monitors; library storytelling sessions; trips to the grocery just to get out of the house with the baby; post-pregnancy pants; raging hormones.
Tamanya M.M. Garza, herself a new mom, directs “Cry It Out” with a clear connection to the many aspects of its themes, and the play unfolds on a comfortable but appropriately unremarkable backyard set by Marie Laster.
New moms, take note: For you especially, this show is worth all the planning a night out requires.
“Cry It Out,” produced by Simpatico Theatre, runs through June 23 at the Louis Bluver Theatre at the Drake Apartments on South Hicks Street. (Hicks Street runs to the side of the Drake Apartments, on Spruce Street between 15th and 16th Streets.) 267-437-7529 or www.simpaticotheatre.org.