Company of Fools’ 24th theatrical season began a few months ago with a June-July run of Beth Henley’s “Crimes of the Heart.” The dark comedy kicked off a series of plays that the company’s new producing artistic director Scott Palmer curated on the theme of family, with each theatrical installment highlighting a different meaning of the word.
“Crimes of the Heart” exemplified the idea of “the family we are born into.” The season continues this month with Molly Smith Metzler’s comedy “Cry It Out,” which explores “the family we find.”
With a small, focused cast of characters, “Cry It Out” navigates the highs and lows of parenthood through the humorous and heartfelt experiences of four first-time parents. Jessie (Ariel Puls), Lina (Paul Rebelo), Adrienne (Michelle Carter) and Mitchell (Joel Vilinsky). All struggle with separate aspects of this major life change, but over the course of the play discover that their similarities run deeper than their differences.
“It’s funny. It’s smart. It’s raw. It makes you laugh and it makes you cry,” Rebelo said. “I think everybody who comes to see this show, whether a parent or not—we are all at least daughters or sons—will root for all of these characters and their happiness. This play is all about community and the power of people coming together and how that can heal you and help you navigate different stages of your life.”
The four characters of “Cry It Out” have certainly entered into a new and wildly transformative stage of their lives. Denise Simone, director of the show and co-founder of Company of Fools, said, “That thing about ‘having it all’ really doesn’t exist. Some people have an assumption that a baby will just slide into the life they have, but really it’s going to change the life you have—every part of it.”
Speaking of her own character, Puls built upon Simone’s statement, saying, “For Jessie it completely alters her focus. She’s been going along with her husband, they have their plan set, but this baby and this traumatic birth experience she’s had have completely altered her priorities. It makes her very vulnerable, but it’s also really empowering that she’s able to embrace this change and find a way to articulate her new needs as a mom. She finds a friend [Rebelo’s character Lina] who supports that.”
Puls, Rebelo and Simone all lauded Metzler’s deftness in crafting four relatable, likable characters without judgment, and allowing them to openly and confidently discuss subjects that many find difficult to verbalize.
“Parenthood is a touchy topic,” Rebelo said. “Everyone has so many opinions on how to be a parent and how to raise a kid, but everyone has to figure it out their own way.”
Simone—a mother herself—chimed in that “kids don’t come with a manual.”
Of the four cast members, only one has firsthand experience as a parent. To help the others get into character and understand some of the unforeseen challenges a baby brings, Simone and Palmer arranged for the cast to spend the first rehearsal meeting with new parents from the area.
“The very first day, we were lucky enough to have several first-time parents come in, and we talked for about an hour about their birth experiences and how it changed their lives,” Simone said.
For Puls, who is making her Company of Fools debut with this play, that kind of personal touch makes all the difference.
“Coming in on the first day and working with new moms, I knew this is a safe, good space that is giving me all the tools I need to succeed in this production,” she said.
Palmer, who joined Company of Fools less than a year ago, sees “Cry It Out” as the perfect opportunity to not only, as Puls said, provide the actors with a touch of something extra, but also reach out to new audiences.
“Cry It Out” will begin its run on Tuesday, Sept. 24, at 6 p.m. with a special “Pay What You Feel” parent-and-baby preview performance.
For the first time ever, the Hailey-based theater company is extending an invitation specifically to parents and their small children to attend the show together.
The Liberty Theatre will be decked out to cater to the specific needs of parents and babies. House lights will be kept up, extra baby-changing stations will be made available and space will be set aside in the lobby for anyone who needs to take a quick step outside. As implied by “Pay What You Feel,” theatergoers can pay whatever sum they deem appropriate, and babies are admitted free.
“Company of Fools is embracing some new programs that will help ensure that people who may not, traditionally, feel super welcome in a theater because they have little babies may now come and enjoy themselves,” Palmer said. “We’re trying to find ways to make sure that all members of our community have access to the plays we produce.”
“Cry It Out,” as with other Company of Fools productions, has many sponsors from across the valley. One of those, St. Luke’s Wood River Medical Center, has gone the extra step to fund the parent-and-baby night.
St. Luke’s Director of Community Engagement Erin Pfaeffle said this was the first time the hospital has had the opportunity to use theater as a voice for community health.
“We haven’t had that ability before to touch people this way,” Pfaeffle said.
St. Luke’s will be at the parent/children’s night with resources and information on classes offered by the hospital to new mothers, as well as other resources in the community for new moms to use.
St. Luke’s Wood River Medical Center offers car seat safety checks once a month, with one being offered today, Sept. 18, from 2-4 p.m. at the St. Luke’s Health Clinic in Hailey, no appointment necessary.
Also beginning today is a childbirth preparation course. This four-week series promotes a healthy, safe and educated birth and provides important information to soon-to-be parents.
To get more information or to register, call 208-727-8733. In addition, a new moms group meets once a week on Tuesdays from noon to 1:30 p.m. at the health clinic, and those interested in attending should call in advance at the number listed above.
Pfaeffle said the hospital staff is always looking for new opportunities and avenues to share information with the community outside of the hospital walls. With this theater production, Pfaeffle said she hopes they will be reaching a broader group.
Palmer echoed that sentiment, saying, “It’s a chance for new parents not just to attend the theater, but also to meet other parents, share their experiences and maybe make lasting bonds.”
For Rebelo, this marks yet another way in which Company of Fools sets itself apart from other theater companies.
“I’ve never worked at a theater that provided a night for the people who are being represented onstage,” she said. “I really love that we’re kicking off this run with a night for parents.”
Following the parent-and-baby night, “Cry It Out” will run nightly at 7:30 p.m. from Wednesday, Sept. 25, through Saturday, Sept. 28, before resuming and running from Wednesday, Oct. 2, through Saturday, Oct. 12. The performance on Sunday, Oct. 6, will be a 3 p.m. matinee with a backstage tour and post-show chat back.
“Cry It Out” is, in Rebelo’s words, “for parents and about parents,” but it shares lessons and ideas that apply generally to everyone. Just as importantly, the cast and crew of Company of Fools stressed that it is laugh-out-loud funny.
Tickets for “Cry It Out” are on sale now. Visit sunvalleycenter.org or call 208-578-9122 to purchase.