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“I feel I have hit bottom and then a trap door opens and I go further down and find another way to be sad”. Mr. Felt (Steve Brady) is the host of iconic children’s TV program and is struggling with the loss of his wife and longtime puppeteer partner. He has lost his enthusiasm and is contemplating retirement. Show’s director, Tom (Michael Storm) has other ideas. He wants to continue the show and he brings in a new puppeteer Jodi (Sarah Moser) to replace Mr. Felt’s wife, and to work the puppet, Francis.
In addition to being nervous, Jodi could not measure up to the role and fill in the big shoes of the original person. However, Mr. Felt devotes a weekend to train Jodi in little nuances of puppet show, and Jodi turns out to be a great student. Mr. Felt also feels rejuvenated, and he develops a close bond with Jodi. After Jodi’s training, they are ready to share her skills with the Director Tom, and fellow puppeteer, Carol (Suzanne Grodner). Mr. Felt was not prepared for the reaction from Carol.
It becomes apparent that this close knit team had much work to do, when it came to dealing with the loss of the team member, wife, and a close friend. They could not simply put back the pieces, replace the old team member with a new one, and move on. They needed to work through their grief, their anger and sadness, feel it, share it, mourn, cry, and rejoice in the happy memories, before letting go and moving on.
The show too must go on. However, it does not have to go on as it always did in the past, pretending that there wasn’t a major upheaval, a huge crisis, and a deep loss, that the team was dealing with. Can this moment of crisis be an opportunity to get real with the little members of its fan club, the children?
Great kudos to the Artistic Director, Robert Kelley, for continuing to expand the perspectives of the audience, through the medium of live theater. Writer, David West Read has written a simple story, that has much depth and combines comedy and tragedy, that mirrors life. Director, Stephen Brackett has done a fabulous job in helping it come alive, on stage. As always Stage Manager, Jamie D. Mann has done a superb job in creating TV set, complete with clappy closet and Carol’s (the puppet) barn.
Special credits to the Casting Director, Leslie Martinson, and extremely talented cast, who not only played their roles, but played the roles of the puppets, and/or relating to the puppets, in that it seemed like it was a talented cast of seven, Steve Brady, Suzanne Grodner, Michael Storm, Sarah Moser, Carol, Francis, and Meatball Moose, (eight, counting Mr. Felt’s wife) . What a treat!!
Do not miss the show; it is good for the laughs and good for the soul. “The Great Pretender” will be running at Lucie Stern Theater in Palo Alto, till August 3, 2014 and tickets can be available at http://www.theatreworks.com.