New mothers face hard choices in Northlight Theatre's 'Cry It Out'

“Cry It Out” - ★ ★ ★

“When it comes to kids and careers, there's rarely a perfect choice,” opined a newsroom veteran who well recalls those heady days as a new mom full of emotion, overcome by exhaustion and bedeviled by uncertainty.

Playwright Molly Smith Metzler (writer/co-producer for Showtime's “Shameless”) chronicles the experiences (and the choices) of three first-time moms (and one dad) in “Cry It Out,” which premiered last year at the Humana Festival of New American Plays and is currently running at Skokie's Northlight Theatre.

Metzler addresses with candor, humor, empathy and even fury the challenges new mothers face: from breast-feeding and sleep training to dealing with spouses and in-laws. Her play also takes on what may be the most pressing challenge - whether to return to work or stay home with the baby, a choice that often depends on one's position on the economic ladder.

Darci Nalepa, left, Laura Lapidus and Kristina Valada-Viars play new mothers in Northlight Theatre's production of "Cry It Out." Courtesy of Michael Brosilow

The result is a comedy that is both incisive and compassionate. Affectionately directed by Jessica Fisch, “Cry It Out” is sweet but not mawkish. Moreover, it feels authentic, especially in Metzler's refusal to shy away from that universal truth: the larger your bank balance, the greater your options.

Indeed, socio-economic status figures prominently in “Cry It Out,” which unfolds in the backyard of a suburban Long Island duplex. That's where we first encounter neighbors and new acquaintances Jessie (Darci Nalepa, from Elk Grove Village) and Lina (Laura Lapidus), who are searching for a spot in Jessie's yard where they can get a signal for their smartphone-compatible baby monitors.

The new moms met a day earlier at a local grocery store and their shared experience sparks a friendship that includes exchanging intimate details about themselves and their unseen partners.

Over coffee, corporate attorney Jessie confesses she's considering quitting her job at the prestigious international law firm where she's on the partner track. She intends to stay home with her daughter, a decision she has not yet shared with her husband.

Meanwhile Lina, whose financial situation is far more precarious, agonizes over leaving her son in the care of her boyfriend's mother. But money is tight and she has no recourse but to return to her job as a hospital admissions representative when her maternity leave ends.

New dad Mitchell (Gabriel Ruiz) seeks advice from fellow new parent Jessie (Darci Nalepa) in Northlight Theatre's production of "Cry It Out," by Molly Smith Metzler. Courtesy of Michael Brosilow

Their coffee klatch unexpectedly expands at the behest of Jessie's wealthy, well-meaning neighbor Mitchell (Gabriel Ruiz, an affably doting stay-at-home dad), who has observed the women from his mansion next door. He believes his jewelry designer wife, Adrienne (the frosty, tightly coiled Kristina Valada-Viars), mother to their 7-week old daughter, suffers from postpartum depression and hopes a play date with other new moms will help alleviate it.

To reveal more would spoil the play. Suffice to say that Metzler understands there are as many different responses to parenthood as there are parents.

Fisch's cast ably conveys those differences. The performances are uncontrived and genuine, as reflected in the easy camaraderie between Nalepa's earnest, affecting Jessie and Lapidus' spirited but strained Lina.

The acting is quite good throughout. The most riveting moment of the play belongs to Valada-Viars, who is positively incandescent delivering a riveting monologue in which the defiant Adrienne rails against parental double standards.

The most poignant moment, however, comes courtesy of Nalepa's Jessie, who recognizes her options are equally circumscribed despite her advantages.

The choices she faces aren't easy and no choice she makes will be perfect. Any working mother will tell you that.

<b>Location:</b> Northlight Theatre, North Shore Center for the Performing Arts, 9501 Skokie Blvd., Skokie, (847) 673-6300 or

<b>Showtimes:</b> 1 and 7:30 p.m. Wednesday; 7:30 p.m. Thursday; 8 p.m. Friday; 2:30 and 8 p.m. Saturday; 2:30 p.m. Sunday through June 17. Also 7 p.m. June 3. No 1 p.m. show May 30

<b>Tickets:</b> $30-$81

<b>Running time:</b> About 100 minutes, no intermission

<b>Parking:</b> Free parking in the lot and garage adjacent to the theater

<b>Rating:</b> For adults; contains mature themes and language

Article Comments
Guidelines: Keep it civil and on topic; no profanity, vulgarity, slurs or personal attacks. People who harass others or joke about tragedies will be blocked. If a comment violates these standards or our terms of service, click the "flag" link in the lower-right corner of the comment box. To find our more, read our FAQ.