Socialite Perri (Betsy Kruse Craig) is preparing a surprise party for her husband when her old beau Nick (Bruce Morganti) shows up in the romantic comedy "In the Mood."

TIM FULLER / INVISIBLE THEATRE

A playwright's work is never done. At least that's true for Kathleen Clark, who wrote Invisible Theatre's season opener, "In the Mood."

The play had its premiere at the Berkshire Theatre Festival in Stockbridge, Mass., last month.

And still, Clark is tweaking it. And so is Susan Claassen, who is directing the comedy.

Here's how it all happened:

Clark sent the new play to the Berkshire thinking she still had work to do on it.

To her surprise, they called her and said they wanted to stage it.

Meanwhile, Claassen had read about Clark's new play, loved the title and called the playwright, who had penned "Southern Comfort," which Invisible Theatre produced two years ago.

Clark sent it to Claassen and headed for the Berkshire to continue to tweak it - common when a play is first staged.

"I would meet with the director, talk with him, talk more, and type until the early morning hours and walk into rehearsal with the new pages," Clark said in a phone interview.

When the script was finally frozen, she sent the new version to Claassen.

"There was a different tone to it," said Claassen.

"It was farcical, but I hadn't read that in earlier versions. Plus, we have a smaller set, and that necessitated some tweaking."

You'd think Clark would have thrown up her hands at that point.

But this is a playwright who was still making changes to her 1987 play "Southern Comfort" when it was staged in California earlier this year.

Besides, while Clark liked the farcical version of "In the Mood" that opened in Massachusetts, she longed for some of the pieces of the play she had cut.

"At the Berkshire, the director and I worked on pulling out some of the fat; he was really concentrating on the comedy," she said.

"But I think I took too much out. I had a great farcical momentum going, but it wasn't exactly what I wanted for the play."

Nor was it what Claassen wanted.

The story is about a Manhattan socialite who is busily preparing a surprise party for her husband. An old beau of hers shows up, much to her chagrin. Then, her husband shows up, a woman on his arm. Clearly, he was not expecting his wife to be home. All hell breaks loose.

The Berkshire version, said Claassen, "had a frantic opening to the beginning. I never saw it that way - it's Katharine Hepburn dealing with all the details, but not frantic. We can believe outlandish situations because we believe in the people."

So Claassen called Clark.

Gutsy? Definitely. But, Claassen said, "when you reach a certain age, and have a certain number of years of experience, what's the worst that could happen? They could say 'no.' "

Clark did not say "no."

"I think what happened at Berkshire was that our aim was to try to get the comedy working, and we achieved that goal," Clark said.

"But then some of the emotional world got lost, so Suz and I are putting back in some of the emotional world of the characters, and deepening it a bit. It's a play with a lot of comedy now, not a farce."

And a play that Claassen definitely wanted to stage.

She loves "the sparkling charm of the piece, and though it is reminiscent of a Philip Barry play, it had a contemporary feel to it," she said, referring to the playwright of many sophisticated comedies, including "The Philadelphia Story," during the first half of the last century.

"And it's a traditional comedy with wonderful characters. She has a terrific ear for the voices of these characters. It's a great way to start the season."

As for Clark, she'll be here for the opening, no doubt tweaking until the curtain goes up.

If you go

"In the Mood"

• Playwright: Kathleen Clark.

• Presented by: Invisible Theatre.

• Director: Susan Claassen.

• Where: Invisible Theatre, 1400 N. First Ave.

• When: Preview, 7:30 p.m. Tuesday (sold out); 7:30 p.m. Wednesday (opening) and Thursday; 8 p.m. next Friday. Continues through Sept. 25.

• Cast: Betsy Kruse Craig, Bruce Morganti, Kevin Black, Lori Hunt, Polly (Bourke) Schlitz and Jack Neubeck.

• Tickets: $25. Half-price tickets available before all performances; depending on availability.

• Reservations, information: www.invisibletheatre.com or 882-9721.

• Running time: 85 minutes, with no intermission.

• Et cetera: The playwright will lead a discussion about the play after Thursday's 7:30 p.m. performance.

"It's a traditional comedy with wonderful characters. She (playwright Kathleen Clark) has a terrific ear for the voices of these characters. It's a great way to start the season."

Susan Claassen

Director, "In the Mood," Invisible Theatre

Contact reporter Kathleen Allen at kallen@azstarnet.com or 573-4128.