Review of Cry It Out at Washington University

    Molly Smith Metzler’s Cry It Out was shown to its best advantage in last weekend’s outstanding production at Washington University.

    The action takes place from late winter to early spring in a backyard in Manorhaven, a village on the north shore of Long Island. The housing there ranges from prosperous to run-down. On a cliff above Manorhaven is Sands Point, one of the richest communities in America.

    The setting is very specific because Manorhaven is a place where a wide cross section people can be neighbors. The backyard in the play is between the homes of Jessie Gelb and Lina Bustamante. They get together for coffee in a spot in the range of both their baby monitors.

    The two women are from disparate backgrounds. Jessie is a corporate lawyer originally from the Midwest. Her husband’s family lives in a nearby community that is somewhat less prosperous than Sands Point. Lina is a brassy nurse from the south shore of Long Island who curses too much in a thick New York accent.

    Both have had a hard time meeting other women with newborns. After finding each other, Jessie and Lina bond immediately over their shared experiences. Their engaging, surprisingly funny conversations are an eye-opening catalogue of the problems facing new mothers.

    The chemistry of Lina and Jessie’s relationship faces a test when they receive an awkward visit from Mitchell Danow. He has witnessed the women’s supportive interaction from his home in Sands Point, and he asks if their group has room for his wife, Adrienne Marra, who is also a new mother. To Mitchell, Adrienne seems disengaged from her newborn. He hopes meeting other new mothers may help her.

    Mitchell’s request causes the first rift between Jessie and Lina. The former wants to help. The latter wants nothing to do with the privileged interloper. When Adrienne briefly stops by the backyard, she could not be more uninterested or unpleasant. There is more to Adrienne, however, than she shows in her first appearance. Her experience is another example of the challenges facing new mothers.

    The cast was superb. The joy of finding a kindred spirit was portrayed with wonderful spontaneity by Anna Hansen as Jessie and Samantha Campisi as Lina. Jacob Elliott embodied Mitchell’s diffidence and confusion, while Sarah Wilkinson summoned up startling rage when Adrienne barked out her side of the story.

    Annie Mitnick’s scenic design and Emily Frei’s props convincingly depicted the backyard and rear wall of a two-family duplex. Andrea Urice’s direction let the story unfold naturally on a stage surrounded on three sides by the audience.

    Lainie Paris’s costumes recognized differences in seasons and social class. The atmosphere was enhanced by Nick Cochran’s lighting and Sean M. Savoie’s sound. The faculty design advisors were Nikki Green (costumes), Robert Mark Morgan (set) and Sean M. Savoie (lighting).

    This production is now closed, but the name Cry It Out is worth remembering to avoid missing out on future opportunities to see this brilliantly written play.

    —Gerry Kowarsky

    Photo by Jack Rushen Photography
    From the left, Samantha Campisi as Lina and Anna Hansen as Jessie in
    Cry It Out.