'Cry It Out' tells the story of friendship, challenges confronting new mothers

Michael H. Hodges
Detroit News Fine Arts Writer

Molly Smith Metzler wrote “Cry It Out,” which opened last weekend at the Detroit Public Theatre and runs through Dec. 9, when she was struggling with a newborn and had zero money.

New York playwright Molly Smith Metzler stands next to a poster of her play, Cry It Out, at the Max M. Fisher Music Center in Detroit, Friday, Nov. 16, 2018.

“I couldn’t even afford a latte,” she said, chatting last Friday at DPT. Indeed, Metzler, who’s now a writer on Showtime’s “Shameless,” wrote the play in large part to illustrate the cruel choices new parenthood often brings — wrenching decisions that rarely get discussed.

“No one warned me being broke and having a baby would suck,” the Los Angeles-based writer said, “or how my identity and marriage would get cracked open. You’re half-cocked and exhausted,” she added. “It’s like the Teacup ride at Six Flags.”

Before you jump to conclusions, Metzler’s husband, playwright Colin McKenna, had a good job at the time teaching at a private school on New York’s Long Island. And, it goes without saying, they utterly adore their daughter Cora, who’s about to turn 6.

But life in the New York suburbs was blisteringly expensive, and after about three months, Metzler — a graduate of The Juilliard School — had to go to work as a waitress. 

At the time, the couple lived in a downmarket part of Port Washington, “a dreamy little seaside town” in her words. 

High up on a cliff above their poky subdivision was Sands Point, which Metzler describes as one of the two richest towns in the country. 

“There are palatial estates,” she said, “and a bunch of New York Yankees. And literally, they looked right down on us in Manorhaven, a rental community with a lot of Section 8 housing.”

Cooped up on maternity leave and eager for conversation, Jessie (Breayre Tender), left,  invites the funny and forthright Lina (Dani Cochran) for coffee in their neighboring backyards. They become fast friends, quickly bonding over their shared new mom experience.

It was this mix of elements — the challenges confronting new mothers, isolated at home, and the socioeconomic split in a fabled suburb that first planted the seeds that would blossom into “Cry It Out.” 

The play mostly revolves around the relationship of two new mothers, next-door neighbors Jessie and Lina. Desperate for adult company and understanding, the two discover they can stretch their baby monitors just far enough to talk across their property line. 

The pair illustrate America’s growing divide. Jessie is a corporate lawyer taking time off from her job in Manhattan. Lina is a community-college dropout living with her mother-in-law.

A third mom, Adrienne, is fabulously wealthy, and lives in the gilded precincts of Sands Point. 

Lest you be concerned, the play is not an unending downer.

“It’s a warm story of friendship about getting through a very funny and painful time,” Metzler said.

The author is very clear that the only reason she could write the play was because she has a husband willing to make the sacrifices involved. 

“I could write because I had a husband who did the lion’s share of child care,” Metzler said, “and an incredible support team of grandparents.”

“Cry It Out” premiered last year at the prestigious Humana Festival at the Actors Theatre of Louisville. Since then, it’s been produced in Chicago, Indianapolis, Washington, D.C., Key West and at the Dorset Theatre Festival in Vermont. 

The Chicago Tribune’s Chris Jones gave the play his highest rating, four stars, when it was produced at the city’s Northlight Theatre. 

Today Metzler’s life is a world away from Manorhaven. She got lured out to LA to work on Netflix’s “Orange Is the New Black” and has now signed a contract for the next two years with Showtime’s “Shameless.” 

Cora is doing splendidly, though her mother has “a terrible feeling” she may end up wanting to be an actor. 

But the trials of new motherhood and relative poverty are long behind her.

Metzler laughs. “Now I can afford a latte.” 

(313) 222-6021

Twitter: @mhodgesartguy

New York playwright Molly Smith Metzler stands next to a poster of her play, Cry It Out, at the Max M. Fisher Music Center in Detroit, Friday, Nov. 16, 2018.

'Cry It Out'

Through Dec. 9

Detroit Public Theatre

Max M. & Marjorie S. Fisher Music Center

3711 Woodward, Detroit

Wednesdays-Thursdays, Fridays and Sundays: $40, adults; $25 juniors (under 30); $30 seniors (65 and older)

Saturdays: $47.50 adults; $32.50 juniors (under 30); $37.50,seniors (65 and older)

(313) 576-5111