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New Waterbury play fleshes out viral sensation ‘Italian Mom’

Italian Mom Loves You play
Provided photo
Paul C. Roth
Daniel Franzese as Antoinette in “Italian Mom Loves You,” which is playing at Seven Angels Theatre in Waterbury until Aug, 21.

It all started with “Shit Italian Moms Say” on YouTube back in 2012. Actor Daniel Franzese put on a wig and a dress and started channeling his Italian American mother. Those series of videos became a viral sensation and now have close to 7 million views. Franzese said it all started when he was out with a friend in his native New Jersey.

“I was dropping her off at her apartment and she said, ‘I’d invite you up, but I have nothing to serve you, not even a piece of cake.’ Well, we both thought that was hilarious, you know, something my mom would say,” Franzese said.

“Italian Mom” made a resurgence during the pandemic when Instagram asked Franzese to make the character into a series. Now “Italian Mom” (her name is Antoinette, by the way) is a new, one-person play at Seven Angels Theatre in Waterbury.

“Italian Mom Loves You,” co-written by Franzese and Connecticut-based playwright Jacques Lamarre, catches Antoinette as she is preparing a surprise birthday party for her mother.

But other factors are making the event a tad stressful.

“Her son is getting married to a girl that she’s not so crazy about,” Franzese said. “Her daughter is going off to college. She’s divorced. And now she’s looking to maybe move. So, it’s like she is trying to figure out, ‘What am I if I’m not a wife and mother?’ There’s a lot going on.”

Franzese is perhaps best known for his role as Damian in the 2004 movie “Mean Girls.” He said originally, the “Italian Mom” character he created was a goof — a way to parody his own Italian mother and her friends. But through the years, the character has come to symbolize a lot more.

“What I’m really trying to do here is to preserve some of this idiosyncratic dialogue that these ladies use, and also the love that’s infused in everything. The way that they yell but they’re not screaming, the way that they cook food like it’s medicine. I think that really resonates with people in the Italian-American community,” Franzese said.

“Italian Mom Loves You” runs through Sunday, Aug. 21, at Seven Angels Theatre in Waterbury.

Ray Hardman is Connecticut Public’s Arts and Culture Reporter. He is the host of CPTV’s Emmy-nominated original series Where Art Thou? Listeners to Connecticut Public Radio may know Ray as the local voice of Morning Edition, and later of All Things Considered.