new play "Cradle and All" tells the truth, warts and all

I was recently venting about how people who aren’t mothers assume we are mind-numbingly idle, and how that misconception of our lives is all too obvious in the portrayals of motherhood in popular culture.

This week, I saw a new play that gets it all refreshingly right. The Manhattan Theatre Club here in New York City is currently hosting the world premiere of Cradle and All, a play by father-of-two Daniel Goldfarb that explores the cost of having children– and of NOT having children– on two couples living right across the hall from each other in modern-day Brooklyn Heights.

Both couples– one wondering if they should have a baby, one wondering if they’ll ever get their old lives back now that they have– are played with humor and searing honesty by Greg Keller and Maria Dizzia. This play shows it all, good and bad. This play shows what it’s really like when you haven’t slept a solid night’s sleep in eleven months, when you don’t have your body back (and maybe never will), and when one’s child defies every expert’s advice on getting her to sleep through the night. 

The typically cantankerous (and presumably childless) New York Times reviewer called this play “slight” and “trivial” (before acknowledging that it was a enjoyable and often hilarious evening of theater). But it’s not. I think most of the people who create popular culture, and review it, and review books, think that plays and TV shows and movies and books about motherhood are by definition slight and trivial. And sure, some of them are– just like some of the quintillion books and plays and movies about men having midlife crises can be slight and trivial. But they don’t have to be. And I think when someone says something about motherhood that needs to be said, and says it well, they deserve our praise, our world of mouth, and our ticket dollars– just like a currently-running hilarious movie written by women and starring women and not all about men for a change does. Go see “Bridesmaids” if you haven’t yet (SO funny) and go see “Cradle and All” if you’re in New York City. We deserve books and movies and shows and plays that honestly reflect our lives– and maybe it will happen if we support them when they appear.

Cradle and All is currently running at City Center, 131 W 55th St.  You can get 25% off tickets by visiting NYCITYCENTER.ORG and using code 7554.

Disclosure: I received two free tickets to Cradle and All’s opening night, which is how I came to see the show.