Did mother know best? Parental-oriented comedy unfolds this weekend at Willow Leaves

The character of Olivia, played by Molly Nelson, hugs her mother Karen, played by Connie Kiviniemi-Baylor in a rehearsal scene from the romantic comedy "Things My Mother Taught Me." Photo provided by Kathryn Baylor Photography.

HOPE — A weekend comedy could unfold as actress Molly Nelson’s easiest role ever — and one that falls under the kind of depiction that she has wanted to try for a year and half.

She and real-life boyfriend Josh Hogan will portray a romantic couple moving into their first apartment together in the lighthearted work “Things My Mother Taught Me” from the local Passion for Acting Theatre Company unfolding in a dinner theater presentation this weekend and next at Willow Leaves of Hope, 326 Jackson St. in Hope.

“I was super-duper excited about this,” Nelson said. “We have dreamed about doing this.”

And they predict it will be a joy portraying young, 20-something love.

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“I think we can play this (couple) pretty convincingly,” Hogan said.

Also, Nelson’s character of Olivia shares character traits with Nelson herself.

“Actually, both of the characters we’re playing are so similar to ourselves,” Nelson said. “And I was like, ‘Wait a minute: Is this play about US?’”

She laughed. The play actually is about the couple moving into their first apartment together. Each set of parents shows up on moving day, complicating their situation.

In deference to COVID-19 concerns, the 100-seat venue will be reduced to 70 seats with tables at least 6 feet apart and a minimum of about 10 feet from the stage, according to co-director and cast member Connie Kiviniemi-Baylor, who founded the troupe.

Both she and cast members mentioned they are happy for a chance to perform again.

“It just feels so good to be back on stage,” Nelson said. “I really had this craving, even though this has been a chaotic time overall.”

That’s precisely why Kiviniemi-Baylor said she wanted to present this show: to give residents hungry for live entertainment good food via a dinner theater meal and food for thought and laughter. And, especially in these times, she’s serious about laughter.

So serious about it, in fact, that she looked up details about the healing power of laughter online before she talked about the show that she and daughter/actress Kathryn Baylor are producing (mom is co-directing with Gregory Andis).

“They say it builds the immune system,” Kiviniemi-Baylor said. “So everyone should want to come out and laugh with us.”

Besides, she likes the idea that the show that she sees as especially heartwarming includes a solid message about how children-turned adults catch and save far more ways of their parents than most moms or dads ever realize.

“I think it’s good showing the dynamics of family relationships and how our children learn lessons from us whether we’re saying it out loud or not,” Kiviniemi-Baylor said. “They often are following our example that we set, even if we’re simply displaying it through our own actions.”

She added that, before scheduling the play, she sent an email to her troupe’s past ticket buyers asking if they were willing to be out with a small crowd for a live event amid the pandemic.

“Most of the responses that we got were a yes,” she said. “I truly believe that most people are ready to be entertained while forgetting for a while all this craziness.”

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What: Passion for Acting Theatre Company presents the dinner theater comedy "Things My Mother Taught Me," by Katherine DiSavino.

When: 6 p.m. Aug. 7, 8, 14 and 15 and at 1 p.m. Aug. 9 and 16. Dinner includes salad, entree and dessert.

Where: Willow Leaves of Hope, 326 Jackson St. in Hope.

Cast: Olivia Keegan — Molly Nelson

Karen Keegan (Olivia’s mom) — Connie Kiviniemi-Baylor

Carter Keegan (Olivia’s dad) — Jason Bowser

Gabe Lawson — Josh Hogan

Lydia Lawson (Gabe’s mom) — Cheryl Baker

Wyatt Lawson (Gabe’s dad) — Gregory Andis

Max Mirowski (the apartment building superintendent) — Stephen Planalp

Tickets: $30.

Information and reservations: 812-546-0640.