She is the clutchy, kvetching Mom From Hell. The hippie mama who loves too groovily. Photo albums are not good enough for this maternal obsessive. A Jewish, single mother, she prefers a library of her daughter's answering machine messages from college.
"I wanted a record of her growth," says L.A. comic Lotus Weinstock, thinking nothing of this display of motherly devotion.
But how does the alternative parent cut the umbilical cord?
Write a play about it, of course, and co-star in it with your kid.
In "Molly & Maze," opening in San Diego's Hahn Theatre on Thursday, Weinstock has created Molly, a neurotic stand-up comic, unsure of her professional and child-rearing success.
Maze, played by Weinstock's real-life daughter Lili Haydn, is the self-assured child/critic, trying to shore up her mother's confidence and help her come to grips with the empty nest syndrome. Instead of bringing their "issues" to a therapist, the mother-daughter team have brought them onstage.
As the liberal flower child, Molly thanks humor for saving her from being "a casualty of mind expansion with stretch marks on the brain." But then again, one isn't so sure about those stretch marks when Molly worries that she's been "so concerned with the size of my ass that I haven't thought about the homeless in weeks."
"I'm sure they haven't thought about you either," quips Maze.
Molly is also the quintessential Jewish mother. So what comes from this cross-pollination of '60s culture and Jewish neuroses? Molly wants to be with her daughter when she loses her virginity.
"I finally realized why I'm so invested in my daughter's chastity," Molly says. "Because until she crosses that line, I'll still be the most powerful force in her life."
Rebelling from such a parent can be a challenge. Maze does so by not drinking, smoking or having sex--and reprimanding her mother along the way for her vices. "I think you encourage drug abuse when you do jokes about grass," says Maze, causing the mother to whine about her dictatorial offspring. "She's got Betty Ford's number in the automatic redial. I have these nightmares she's going to come home from spring break and say, 'Pee in this cup, pee in this cup.' "
This isn't the first time Weinstock and Haydn have drawn the curtains open on their relationship. Five years ago, Haydn was 17 when Weinstock wrote the first part of the play as a way to capture their relationship before packing Haydn off to Brown University. Performed in a Beverly Hills theater, "Molly & Maze" revealed a fiercely close relationship that couldn't help but change with time and distance.
Now the "separation ritual" is back on the road in sequel form.
What have the past five years done to mother Lotus/Molly and daughter Lili/Maze? Did Mom survive losing her constant companion? Did college change Maze so much that she can't live at home without a separate phone line and a separate entrance?
"The play is like an emotional medley of all the issues that have come up. It's the DNA of our relationship," Weinstock says.
To rewrite this play, Weinstock says she had to relive how she felt five years ago when her daughter was heading off to college. "It was like going back to something that was sealed with a kiss. It's like exhuming a body," she says. "I didn't want to go back and get lost in the past. There must be a natural time to separate."
Act I takes place in a single evening where Molly confronts her fears of letting her go. She videotapes the evening so that Maze's future therapist will be able to clearly see what their relationship was like. Did she do enough to prepare her child for college? And what will Maze's changes bring her? "I pray with all my heart my daughter doesn't have to make me wrong just to find her way," she says.
Through a series of phone messages, home visits and monologues, the play's second half chronicles the push/pull between mother and daughter as each gets used to living on her own.
"When I got back (from college), our interaction changed," says Haydn, who now lives with her mother in Laurel Canyon. With so much of the play culled from the real events in their lives, Haydn says there has been "a lot of pressure" to get along. But it's a pressure she likes. "Putting the relationship in the public eye made the distinction between acceptable disagreements and damaging disagreements more acute. The most important thing about the play is that there is room for the disagreement."
Handling onstage disputes is the job of director David Sanger, a family friend and recent graduate of Amherst College. "We get separated as a threesome when the two of them go at each other," Sanger says. "To keep them from directing each other, they use me."
So is this mother-daughter relationship going to make it routine to hit the stage every five years? Weinstock thinks so.
"This play seems to have a life of its own. I think there's something special about what we have," she says.
Or as Sanger sees it: "To put a resolution on the play would be to put a resolution on the relationship. How does the world end?"
"Molly & Maze" will open the Gaslamp Quarter Theatre Company season at the Hahn Cosmopolitan Theatre in San Diego. The show runs through Oct. 25, Wednesdays through Saturdays at 8 p.m. with a Sunday matinee at 2 p.m. For tickets, call the box office at (619) 234-9583.