Mothers just know what buttons to push. Daughters, too.
The bond between them is the center of "Dear Mom," a new show from "Calamari Sisters" creative team Jay Falzone and Nancy Holson that opens tonight at Auburn Public Theater and continues through March 8.
Born from the pair's interest in mother-daughter letters, the show follows 45-year-old Linda (Aubry Panek) and her mom, Joan (Maureen Quigley), through a series of scenes lifted from real-life letters Falzone and Holson collected. Third cast member Noelia Antweiler plays some 20 roles in the show as the letters move it through different dimensions of Linda and Joan's relationship.
"They're two feisty women with great senses of humor that know exactly how to push each other's buttons," Falzone said.
Falzone and Holson began collecting the letters in 2011. As their network returned them mother-daughter correspondence from all over the world, writers ages 18 to 88, the pair simultaneously set to work turning it into a book and a play. It was a chicken-and-egg creative process, Falzone said, resulting in the book's publication the same week the play opened in spring 2014.
The book will be available for purchase at Auburn Public Theater, which will also display a different "Dear Mom" letter from a local community member at each performance.
Auburn will be the third run for the show, which has also been produced in Philadelphia and New York City. Falzone hopes to eventually cast a real-life mother-daughter pair to portray Linda and Joan.
Though overall less humorous and more realistic than the long-running "Calamari Sisters," Falzone said, his and Holson's new show is like their musical series in that it finds its legs in its relationships.
"They're so strong and complicated, and so fun to watch," he said. "We all have them, so it's fun to watch other people wrestle with them."
If Falzone sees similar longevity in "Dear Mom," it's in no small part because the relationship it examines is so primal. Even male audiences can relate to connectivity to mothers, he said.
"We are all carried by a mother, we all come out of a mother, we are all connected with our mother first," he said. "It's universal."
With daughters, however, mothers more directly share another major theme of "Dear Mom," Falzone said: the circle of life.
"It's a love letter to the tenacity of the mother-daughter relationship," he said.