Sisters so close, it's hard to tear them apart: Burney Starks, left, Susan Kovitz, Susan Claassen and James Blair in "Look Ma We're Dancing."


Death doesn't always kill the need for mom's approval.

In "Look Ma We're Dancing," two adult sisters fight over their dead mother's affection.

Funny moments, sibling rivalry at its finest and family issues take center stage in the Janet Neipris play, which has its world premiere at Invisible Theatre Tuesday.

"The humor is in the characters, and then it has moments that are poignant where it moves the audience. I love that combination," said playwright Neipris, chairwoman of the Dramatic Writing Department at the Tisch School for the Arts at New York University.

IT collaborated with Neipris for about two years on "Look Ma We're Dancing." The company has been producing Neipris' work since she was straight out of graduate school.

Her last play at IT was "Natives" in 2008.

"Look Ma ..." "is an intimate play about two sisters with universal themes," said Susan Claassen, IT's managing artistic director who also has a lead role in the play. These themes include family, sisters pulling apart and coming together and unconditional love.

Claassen described the play as an ensemble piece with strong characters. The cast includes veterans like herself and a University of Arizona student.

"Invisible Theatre has always been a place for newcomers, new material and seasoned professionals to come together," said Claassen.

The story revolves around Vi and Franny, two sisters who crave their mother's love long after she is dead and buried. Claassen, who plays Vi, described the play as "sibling rivalry and revelry."

New York and Montana provide the settings for the weddings of each sister. Neipris wouldn't reveal if either sister actually ends up with a husband.

Audiences will "leave uplifted with a warm feeling in their hearts," Claassen said.

Neipris, who has a sister, takes cues from her relationships as well as those around her when writing.

"You're pulling on pieces of your own life but also everyone else's life that you witness," she said in a phone interview from New York.

The playwright hopes audiences will examine their own sibling relationships after seeing "Look Ma."

For her, the real comedy begins when her characters are faced with the worst situations possible - and sibling rivalry can certainly produce destructive situations.

In the end, Neipris likes her characters to find resolution, but not before providing some laughs and still exploring deeper relationship issues.

"That's what I think the best comedy can do," she said.

If you go

• What: "Look Ma We're Dancing."

• Presented by: Invisible Theatre, 1400 N. First Ave.

• Playwright: Janet Neipris.

• Director: Gail Fitzhugh.

• Cast: James Blair, Susan Claassen, Bri Giger, Susan Kovitz, Burney Starks.

• When: Previews 7:30 p.m. (sold out). Regular showings are 7:30 p.m. Wednesdays and Thursdays, 8 p.m. Fridays and Saturdays, 3 p.m. Sundays through Feb. 26.

• Tickets: $25. Rush tickets are half-price 30 minutes before curtain, depending on availability.

• Reservations/information: 882-9721 or online at

• Running time: 2 hours with an intermission.

Tayler Wancour is a University of Arizona student who is apprenticing at the Star. Contact 573-4128 or at