‘Cry It Out’: Finding home and humor after childbirth

The cast of Dorset Theatre Festival’s “Cry It Out”: Clea Alsip, Greg Keller, Andrea Syglowski, Janie Brookshire and Marc Masterson (director). (Courtesy Dorset Theatre Festival)

A man directing a comedy about women’s emotional experiences after childbirth might seem a bit of a stretch, but Marc Masterson actually commissioned Molly Smith Metzler to write it while he was artistic director of Actors Theatre of Louisville. “Right after we offered her the commission, she got pregnant and had a baby, so then it took her six years to deliver the first draft,” Masterson says. By then, he had left Louisville. Masterson now has the opportunity to direct it, as Dorset Theatre Festival opens its 41st season of professional theater with Metzler’s “Cry It Out” June 21-July 14, at the Dorset Playhouse. “‘Cry It Out’ has connected with audiences because it is funny as well as poignant, and looks at parenthood in a whole new way,” explains Dina Janis, Dorset’s artistic director. “It just won the Harold and Mimi Steinberg New Play Citation, which is a very big deal, and it occurred to me that the play has not yet been produced on the East Coast. It’s new, fun and exciting, and is perfect for our audiences. It's one terrific play, and it’s going to be a hit." Jessie couldn’t find any mom friends in her new Long Island neighborhood until she and the flamboyant Lina start sneaking out for coffee between their duplexes during nap times. When a wealthy neighbor comes down from the hill overlooking their hangout, the sleep-deprived comedy of new parenthood shows a different side of itself. “Cry It Out” is an honestly absurd look at the dilemma of returning to work after childbirth and how class impacts parenthood and friendship. Masterson’s own daughter struggled with the play’s basic question: Who are you after you have children? “Good stories often happen at points of transition for people, where they’re grappling with big fundamental questions,” he said recently by phone. “There’s a lot of nervousness and some insecurity at the core, which actually is what drives the comedy of the play. “They say that good comedies are based on some sort of pain,” said Masterson, now artistic director of Pittsburgh City Theatre. “All of the characters are grappling with really serious and weighty issues but the humor arises out of our understanding of that.” What makes this play, and others by Metzler work, is that she writes fully dimensional characters. “They are complicated people, and they have contradictory things within them that make them interesting to get to know, to see them navigate the circumstances,” Masterson said. “Cry It Out” is comedy, but it’s serious comedy. “It’s based on character; it’s not based on punch lines — although there are some punch lines,” Masterson said. “It plays as a comedy, but it’s got some pretty serious issues at the core.” Masterson’s aim is to be true to Metzler’s characters. “I know her writing, and that’s what’s necessary to make it work well,” he said. "I’ve got great people, and we’ve got a great shot at them.” To succeed, Masterson says he needs an empathetic response from the audience. “I think we have an opportunity to move people, and I think we have an opportunity to amuse people — and if we do that well, it can go a little bit deeper,” he said. “It’s a moving play that’s also funny.”   Dorset Theatre Festival Dorset Theatre Festival presents “Cry It Out,” a comedy by Molly Smith Metzler, June 21-July 14, at the Dorset Playhouse, 104 Cheney Road in Dorset. Single tickets are $30-$58, subscriptions from $156; call 802-867-2223, ext. 101, or go online to www.dorsetheatrefestival.org.

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