TheatreWorks is set to launch its 45th season with the world premiere of “The Great Pretender” – a bittersweet comedy about friendship, love and letting go – by Broadway playwright David West Read.
The play is slated to preview today through Friday, open Saturday and close Aug. 3 at the Lucie Stern Theatre, 1305 Middlefield Road, Palo Alto.
Directed by Stephen Brackett, “Pretender” kicks off TheatreWorks’ 2014 New Works Festival, at which playwrights and composers from across the country present new works in progress. “Pretender” was a workshop favorite at last year’s festival.
“Pretender” follows Mr. Felt, the gentle host of an iconic children’s TV program who has semi-retired, struggling with the loss of his wife and longtime puppeteer partner. The show’s veteran director urges him to return to the airwaves, introducing a young actress who has grown up watching the program and is uncannily able to reanimate the puppet sidekick once played by his beloved wife.
Read’s work has been produced on Broadway, Off Broadway and across the country. His romantic comedy “The Performers” premiered on Broadway at the Longacre Theatre in 2012. His other plays include “The Dream of the Burning Boy,” “The Dark Pines” and “Happy Face.”
The “Pretender” cast includes Steve Brady as show host Mr. Felt, Suzanne Grodner as puppeteer Carol, Sarah Moser as young actress Jodi – poised to take over puppet Francis – and Michael Storm as show director Tom.
Grodner returns to TheatreWorks to portray the role she created at last summer’s New Works Festival. Moser was last seen at TheatreWorks as Mandy in “Time Stands Still.” Storm has been seen regionally in leading roles at Berkeley Repertory Theatre and California Shakespeare Theater.
As soon as “Pretender” closes, TheatreWorks is slated to launch its 2014 New Works Festival, at which the public can attend performances, give critiques and participate in a panel discussion with the artists. Attendees can also join a Meet the Artists Panel, which will be livestreamed online. Bay Area food trucks are available through the festival, scheduled Aug. 9-17.
The previews and opening-night performances are scheduled 8 p.m. Future shows are slated 2 and 7:30 p.m. Sundays (matinee only Aug. 3); 7:30 p.m. Tuesday and July 22; 7:30 p.m. Wednesdays (additional matinee 2 p.m. July 30); 8 p.m. Thursdays and Fridays; and 2 and 8 p.m. Saturdays (no matinee Aug. 2).
Tickets are $19-$74.
For tickets and more information, call 463-1960 or visit theatreworks.org.