Supporting the Arts in Western Massachusetts and Beyond

November 4, 2019

Review: Hartford Stage, Cry It Out

Hartford Stage, Hartford, CT
through November 17, 2019
by Tim O’Brien

Photo by T. Charles Erikson
New moms Jessie and Lina meet just happen to meet in the supermarket and are thrilled to  discover they live in abutting sides of a Long Island duplex perched on the edge of a tony village. They bond during hurried backyard coffee-klatches while keeping ears cocked for their baby monitors.

Playwright Molly Metzler Smith’s work is as much about class and privilege in America as parenthood itself. Healthcare worker Lina and her unseen partner John are decidedly lower-class, hanging on in the duplex largely due to the fiscal largesse of John’s meddling and possibly alcoholic mother (dubbed “The Beast”). Middle-class attorney Jessie and husband Nate are comfortable; his monied parents urge them to buy a Montauk cottage while she wrestles with telling her mate she doesn’t want to return to work.

Enter Mitchell, upscale neighbor from the wealthier side of town. His jewelry-designer wife Adrienne seems to be having difficulty connecting with their own new bundle of joy.

The performances are strong across the small cast, Evelyn Spahr’s Lina is brash, plain-spoken and gets most of the early punch lines. Rachel Spencer Hewitt’s Jessie is sweetly filled with self-reproach. Erin Gahn plays Mitchell with good-natured earnestness and a dose of Steve Carell. But it is Caroline Kinsolving who stands out as Adrienne. While logging the least actual stage time, her turns are the most dramatic and thought-provoking.

It is sometimes a struggle watching Rachel Alderman’s direction; she moves her actors around the simple (and well-executed by designer Kristen Robinson; it actually rains!) round stage with blocking that at times seems clearly forced, plus postures that are overwrought. A bit more restraint might go a long way. However, this is the first week of the run, and there is lots of time to think about any changes, or not.

Smith’s script, while nothing we haven’t seen or heard before in endless TV sitcoms about smelly diapers and lack of sleep, produces plenty of laughs from a house that had likely been-there done-that.

“Cry It Out” is ripe with comedy with some unexpected sharp twists, and it certainly pleased this opening night audience.