Mr. Felt (Steve Brady) introduces his puppet Francis to Jodi (Sarah Moser) in the World Premiere of ‘The Great Pretender’ at TheatreWorks.
In “The Great Pretender” by David West Read, a grieving man begins to recover from his wife’s untimely death and to connect with people other than his wife for the first time in his adult life.
The middle-aged man, Roy Felt (Steve Brady), has been the low-key host of a TV hand-puppet show for children along the lines of “Mister Rogers’ Neighborhood.”
His wife, Marilyn, had operated one of the puppets, Francis. The other, Carol the Pony, was manipulated by Carol (Suzanne Grodner).
The show has been on hiatus for about a year after Marilyn’s death when its director, Tom (Michael Storm), convinces Roy to give a tryout to the young, overly eager Jodi (Sarah Moser), who can do a right-on imitation of Marilyn as Francis.
Thanks to Jodi and the friendship of Tom and Carol, Roy realizes that it’s time to stop grieving and move on with his life.
This world premiere play was the hit of TheatreWorks’ annual New Works Festival last year and was chosen as the mainstage show of this year’s festival. It deserves the honor.
Director Stephen Brackett has a rock-solid cast with Brady creating a gentle, genial Roy and Moser creating the somewhat ditzy Jodi, who proudly makes her own pants.
Grodner has some of the play’s funniest lines as the salty Carol, while Storm’s Tom, who is gay, does a good job of trying to keep the other characters on track.
Read also wrote songs for the sweetly sentimental, yet absorbing show. David Valentine created the whimsical puppets. The TV studio set is by Daniel Zimmerman.
Running about 100 minutes without intermission, “The Great Pretender” will continue through Aug. 3.
It will be followed by the rest of TheatreWorks’ 13th annual New Works Festival, featuring staged readings of three plays, two musicals and a late-night extra Aug. 9-17.
All performances are at the Lucie Stern Theatre, 1305 Middlefield Road, Palo Alto. For tickets and information call (650) 463-1960 or visit www.theatreworks.org.