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10/31/2019 12:01 AM

Sometime You Just Have to ‘Cry It Out,’ Says Playwright

Cry It Out began as a very personal expression for writer Molly Smith Metzler.

“I wrote the play for myself because I had something to say,” she says. “I didn’t think it would be of interest to others, because basically it’s people in a yard talking about subjects that I’ve never seen talked about on stage.”

It seems there’s a lot of interest from others.

The 100-minute, four-actor play, which premiered in 2017 at the Humana Festival of New American Plays in Louisville, Kentucky, has already received more than three dozen productions across the country, including one in at Thrown Stone Theatre in Ridgefield this summer. The latest production is now playing at Hartford Stage and continues through Sunday, Nov. 17, directed by associate artist Rachel Alderman.

The “comedy with dark edges”—which was based on her experiences as a new mother—is described in the theater’s promotional materials as a play “that peers into the lives of four new parents with nothing in common except sleep deprivation, unreliable childcare, and the notion of ‘having it all.’”

The title refers to a parenting sleep method for dealing with a baby who is continually crying after you put the baby down to bed. The goal: Don’t respond. Let the infant cry itself out and learn that you can’t always get what you want in this world.

“Just rip the Band-Aid off and put your child down in a dark room and let them figure out how to comfort themselves,” says Metzler, whose other plays include Elemeno Pea, The May Queen, Carve, Close Up Space, and Training Wisteria. “It’s very hard to do and it’s terrible to listen to your infant scream and feel alone in the world.”

But all four of the characters in this Long Island suburb are crying it out, too, she says. The Hartford cast features Erin Gann, Caroline Kinsolving, Evelyn Spahr and Rachel Spencer-Hewitt.

The fact that one of the parents is male was important to have in writing the play, says Metzler.

“Parenthood should not just be a female issue and maternity leave should be called parental leave,” she says.

The play is about class as well, says Metzler, the daughter of two teachers.

“The choices you get to make or not make are a class issue, not just a feminist one. It’s financial and it’s often about whether you need to go back to work. And not everyone can afford daycare,” she says. “It made me look at people with money differently and realizing choice is a luxury that not everyone gets to have.”

Though Cry It Out has struck a note at theaters across the country, so far New York City hasn’t come calling “and that’s very disappointing. To be really frank, we were all surprised that no one in New York has raised their hands to do the play.”

But she says theater is robust outside Manhattan “and it’s indicative of the changing tides of the theater, too. New York is not the trajectory any more and what wonderful news that is. We used to let New York City tell the rest of us what plays to do and that’s changing. Maybe New York will still get the memo; it will just be super-late.”

As for her other writing projects, there’s the 10th season of Shameless on Showtime, which begins Sunday, Nov. 10. She will continue her exploration of class issues with her upcoming script for the Netflix drama based on Stephanie Land’s memoir about working as a maid, Maid: Hard Work, Low Pay, and a Mother’s Will to Survive. There’s also a new play in the works, as well. Metzler has also written for Hulu’s Casual, Netflix’ Orange Is the New Black, and HBO’s Codes of Conduct. She is also writing the screenplay adaptation of Ali Benjamin’s award-winning young adult novel, The Thing about Jellyfish.

What does her daughter Cora think about the play?

“She’s delighted because she thinks it’s all about her and she loves looking at the posters,” Metzler says.

But when she becomes an adult?

“It would be interesting to see what she thinks of the play when she is around 20, when she is thinking about her own identity, if it helps her sort out those issues when she’s in that chapter of her life,” she says. “Maybe she’ll be proud of my husband and I. Hopefully she’ll laugh, too.”

The play continues through Sunday, Nov. 17 at Hartford Stage, 50 Church Street, Hartford. Tickets are $25 to $95, including fees. All regular season student seats are $20.

Rachel Spencer Hewitt and Director Rachel AldermanPhoto by Chuck MacNaughton/Hartford Stage
Rachel Spencer Hewitt and Evelyn SpahrPhoto by Chuck MacNaughton/Hartford Stage
Molly Smith Metzler Photo courtesy of Hartford Stage