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Happenings: Oh, the pitfalls of new parenthood

Lean Ensemble Theater delves into the plight of modern moms.

Story By Carolyn Males

©Jean-Marie Côté of thefrenchguy photography

In 1847 Queen Victoria was gob-smacked by an unexpected problem. Personal etchings of a maternal Victoria, never meant to circulate to the public, were being advertised for sale in a London newspaper. Unlike the official portraits showing a regal monarch, these etchings featured domestic portraits of Her Majesty with infant on lap and baby bottle in hand.

Victoria fretted that her subjects wouldn’t see her as Queen, let alone as someone capable of ruling her kingdom. Meanwhile, her decisions suddenly were questioned and she found herself, much to her annoyance, often shuttled out of the governance loop.

Which just goes to show you that, no matter what your station in life, acquiring the label “mother” can change people’s perceptions of who you are. Yes, there are joys –– baby’s first smile, first word, first step. Delightful and memorable.

But then there’s that other side of it…

Lean Ensemble Theater explores the 21st-Century version of this often unforeseen side effect of motherhood in darkly comic Cry It Out. Instead of nannies, there’s those diabolical baby monitors or iPhone apps that you’re now tethered to; money struggles with no income from a royal duchy as a cushion; no ladies-in-waiting or courtiers to deflect all the little irritants of the day. Not to mention that helpless little being who needs you 24/7.

Playwright Molly Smith Metzler has staked out the funny and sometimes heart-wrenching territory of this huge life transition as three women and one desperate husband navigate the new minefield into which they’ve been thrust. They maneuver around below-the-surface hazards –– gender roles and financial issues, underscored by class differences –– in the Long Island backyard of Jessie, a lawyer on maternity leave.

Jessie grapples with a thorny dilemma. She’s on the fast track to partnership in her firm, but truth-be-told, she longs to be a full-time mother, a path that would deviate from her and her husband’s dreams of escaping their duplex with its small patch of dying grass “to live the good life.” On the other hand, her neighbor, Lina, a fireball of blue-collar quips, must contend with her underemployed baby-daddy and the scary prospect of his alcoholic mother as babysitter when she returns to her low-level hospital job for a much-needed paycheck.

The unlikely female neighborhood duo bonds quickly over daily coffee-klatches peppered with self-deprecating humor, childcare tips, and frank talks about predicaments that come with new parenthood. Ever present behind their banter, however, lurk fears about making wrong choices.

Meanwhile Mitchell, whose mansion overlooks their scruffy transitional neighborhood, has been studying the women through binoculars. His glam jewelry designer wife Adrienne, who’s just given birth, is miserable and he decides getting all three women together to bond over plates of artisanal cheese will be the cure. When Adrienne grudgingly strides in, swathed in designer duds and denial, Mitchell’s hopes go sideways.

Cry It Out by Molly Smith Metzler, directed by Lean Ensemble ‘s Amanda Sox, features Maegan McNerney Azar, Thomas Azar, Lindsay Ryan, and Ensemble member Libby Ricardo. Continue the lively discussion at talkbacks after each performance.


Cry it Out

When: Evening performances at 7:30 p.m., March 19-21, March 26-28; Matinees 2 p.m., March 22 , March 29

Where: HHPS Main Street Theatre, 3000 Main St., HHI

Details: Tickets: $40. Students and active military $15. Preview night (March 19 only) $25. Group rates available. 843-715-6676 or leanensemble.org.