A Bittersweet Comedy
The Great Pretender
By David West Read
Directed by Stephen Brackett
Original Songs by David West Read
Scenic Design by Daniel Zimmerman
Costume Design by Cathleen Edwards
Lighting Design by Paul Toben
Sound Design by Cliff Caruthers
Puppet Design by David Valentine
Lucie Stern Theatre
July 9—August 3, 2014
The passing of a cherished puppeteer consumes a children’s TV host in this comic tale of friendship, love, and letting go. A runaway hit at our New Works Festival, it channels the unforgettable small-screen shows that shaped our youth, going behind the painted sets and colored lights to discover that people, as well as puppets, sometimes need a helping hand.
Contains mature language
"A sweet blend of nostalgic whimsy, bright comedy and an empathetic tale of dealing with loss."
San Francisco Chronicle
"Playwright David West Read and director Stephen Brackett establish a very grounded world in which they can veer from big, satisfying laughs to emotional explorations of depth and substance, which is not an easy thing to do. It helps that they have a marvelous cast and several puppets that turn out to be something more than just adorable pieces of cloth (the puppets are designed by David Valentine)."
"The play is dotted with moments of quiet power, such as the way a puppeteer can express emotion with a small move of the hand. As a window into the magical craft of the puppeteer, The Great Pretender is the real deal."
"This script is so strong, in part, because the playwright avoids the prescriptive; instead, he provides four rich characters with whom you genuinely want to spend time. No quick fixes to this grief. No one comes close to finding closure (that dreadful social worker word). However, their respect for each other affords great moments of comedy. This fast-moving production has nary a slow moment – and audience engagement with the material was palpable.
"Together these characters take the audience on a gentle exploration of grief and moving forward with authenticity. Don’t brace yourself for a heavy-handed downer though, because the humor in this script is laugh-aloud funny."
It's a brilliant script, one to enjoy in performance and one to savor in thinking about it later.
The Regarding Arts
"The Great Pretender beguiles with a superb cast at the top of its game. The show draws the audience in and holds it there with laughter, emotion and surprises."
"This show made me almost cry. Well, perhaps I did actually cry a little, or maybe there was just a lot of pollen in the theater. I certainly wasn’t the only one in the theater with sniffles. The Great Pretender isn’t just a puppet show, it is about Life, and Death, and Friendships, and realizing who your Family is when you have no one. It also made me laugh hysterically. It touched me on so many levels, in a way that many other shows have not. But what did I expect? This is TheatreWorks, and they have consistently presented the best of the best for the last year I have attended."
San Jose Met Blog
"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."
San Mateo Daily Journal