"Mom always liked you best."
It's been a favorite sibling rivalry theme since the ancient Greeks dramatized it and the Smothers Brothers used it as a running gag on their hit late-'60s TV show.
Now, Canadian playwright Daniel MacIvor revisits the concept in his 2012 play "The Best Brothers," which has its East Coast premiere and second U.S. production at Merrimack Repertory Theatre, Jan. 8-Feb. 1.
Charles Towers directs the inventive comedy about Kyle and Hamilton Best, who struggle to find common ground after their mother dies in a bizarre accident at a gay pride parade.
Towers laughed out loud the first time he read the 90-minute play.
"I read it one morning and sought the rights to it that afternoon. It's rare when I laugh out loud reading a play in my living room -- so when that happens, I pay attention," he said.
Originally produced at the Stratford Shakespeare Festival in 2012, the play was brought to Towers' attention by his Canadian friends and colleagues Seana McKenna and Miles Potter, the actor and director of "Shakespeare's Will," which played MRT two years ago.
"I'm indebted to them for bringing it to my attention," he said.
The "hilariously funny" play is filled with heart, said Towers.
"These are two middle-aged brothers dealing with their mother's death and at different points in the play they each portray her. We learn how lonely she was and how she pursued an unknown thing to add to her life -- and finds it in her dog," said Towers.
He cast Michael Canavan as Hamilton and Bill Kux as Kyle -- the two actors he wanted for the roles.
"They are perfect and it is going extremely well. It's a small gem of a play and richly theatrical. I think our audiences will love it," said Towers.
Tickets to are $20-$60 with senior discounts and student tickets for $15. Visit www.mrt.org or call 978-654-4678.
On the marquee
- WINTER STAGES: Actors Shakespeare Project begins the New Year with Shakespeare's "Measure for Measure," a play where sex, power and justice collide in a city on the edge. The award-winning itinerant company returns to the Multicultural Arts Center, 41 Second St., Cambridge for the Jan. 7-Feb. 1 run. Tickets $28-$50, with $15 student rush tickets available. Visit www.actorsshakespeareproject.org or call 617-776-2200, ext. 225.
- NOISY FUN: "Stomp," the explosive, provocative, sophisticated, sexy percussive dance show returns to the Lowell Memorial Auditorium on Thursday, Feb. 19, at 7 p.m. It features new surprises, updated sections and two new full-scale routines, using props like tractor tire inner tubes and paint cans. Tickets, $42-$52, available at www.lowellauditorium.com/stomp.
Nancye Tuttle's email address is firstname.lastname@example.org.