I’ve been hearing about Molly Smith Metzler’s Cry It Out for ages. It’s the story of two dissimilar neighbors who have babies at the same time and navigate the challenges of new motherhood together, becoming unlikely friends in the process. I hadn’t been able to get to a performance, but I was curious about the script.

The pandemic gave me the opportunity to see it, as City Theater in Pittsburgh was in the middle of their run when the crisis hit. They filmed it in front of one of their last audiences, in order to offer it as a streaming experience.

“playbill” shot—Tradition!

While I agree with a Twitter wit who referred to videos of theater productions as “low-res TV,” in this time when we can’t gather in space, I am grateful to companies who are making something available. I wish I could have seen this production in person. I enjoyed it immensely, and felt deeply connected with the performers in a way that is rare via video.

The word I keep using to describe this production is genuine. Director Kim Weild kept the story focused and moving forward, even in moments when the characters digressed. The acting was beautifully realized, with clear (but not stereotyped) characters, deliberate beats, emotional honesty, and nuanced discovery. The play doesn’t offer any easy answers to the challenges young parents face. Nothing about this is pat or simple. Metzler engages with the best and worst thing about parenting a baby—the way it tears down all our defenses and leaves us raw and vulnerable. These characters are just opened up to the pain and beauty of the world because when you’re sleeping in two-hour chunks, you don’t have the capacity to cover up (in some cases literally; one character tells an uncomfortably relatable story about getting the door for the FedEx guy with her breast exposed).

The design was detailed and realistic, yet spare. The set didn’t move or change, but it didn’t need to. The costuming was great, perfectly communicating the characters’ personalities at this moment in their lives. The lighting design moved time deftly, while remaining unobtrusive. The design supported the story, but let the actors hold the spotlight. Since actors are my favorite part of directing, I appreciated this choice.

I hope to see everyone of these actors (Julianne Avolio, Sarah Goeke, Rebecca Hirota, and Tim McGeever) onstage in real life; I want to know what sharing the space with them feels like. Their brave honesty was deeply compelling, even in a medium that doesn’t do stage actors any favors.

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