Merrimack Repertory Theatre brings its 2018-2019 to a close with a just-in-time-for-Mother's-Day look at the stresses of contemporary motherhood in a pitch-perfect production of "Cry It Out" by Molly Smith Metzler.
Two women with newborn babies feel isolated in a Long Island village. Jessie is an attorney on maternity leave from her Manhattan law firm and has left the glamor of city life behind. Lina is her neighbor and is on leave from her hospital job.
The two become fast friends when Jessie, desperate for someone to talk to, "jumps over the cantaloupes" at the local supermarket to introduce herself. The two women deepen their friendship over cups of coffee in the backyard of a duplex in Long Island.
For Metzler, the play is an opportunity to explore unlikely women's friendships as she did as a writer for the award-winning Netflix series "Orange is the New Black."
The production brings together "Midwestern nice," brash and crass New York, and wealthy Long Island snootiness.
Jessie, played Erin Felgers, and Lina, played by Natasha Warner, are unlikely friends as they share and debate what kind of mothers they want to be. Jessie believes in "crying it out" at least until Lina rants about the cruelty of the practice.
Lina, whose accent is pure Brooklyn, proclaims herself "loud and salty, like the ocean" as she lets fly with expletives. Jessie, perhaps under Lina's influence, shocks herself when she shouts an obscenity. "I don't curse in real life," she says.
Jessie would prefer to avoid returning to her real life and to become a stay-at-home mom, but her husband and his wealthy parents have other ideas. Lina knows she has no choice but to return to her real life, which involves her baby, her boyfriend and his alcoholic mother.
Then, Mitch arrives and disrupts their coffee breaks by begging them to invite his wife, Adrienne, to join them. They live on a hill overlooking Jessie's duplex. He says she has been looking down on them -- probably figuratively as well as literally -- and is having a difficult time attaching to her new baby.
Adrienne arrives, and her immediate hostility shows this was not her idea. Jessie is a natural "fixer" and tries to help, without success. She is left at the end sitting in her backyard telling Mitch, "This isn't real. It's temporary."
"Cry It Out" is a comedy with a sad and angry edge, but it is, perhaps, the best of a very successful season. Playgoers should be aware, however, that the sometimes raw language means the production is recommended for those over age 16.
"Cry It Out" runs through May 19.