The excitement in his voice is obvious as Nick Radu, a Kew Gardens resident and veteran community theater actor, talks about the upcoming staged readings of a play he wrote.
Called “Imaginary,” the comedic drama will have its debut in Manhattan on June 29, with a second performance in Richmond Hill on July 1. The performances will be followed by audience talk-backs with the creators.
“Imaginary” is set in an apartment overlooking Central Park and focuses on a streetwise young man named Jack Cartwright who is killed in a car accident. Before passing to “the other side,” he must become the imaginary friend to a spoiled little girl named Molly, who has everything she could possibly need except love. Jack finds the task more daunting than he ever could have expected.
Brett Anderson, a Flushing native who met Radu in college and has since gone on to a professional career in theater, plays Jack, and a precocious 9-year-old actress named Melanie Jolley appears as Molly.
“I’ve never worked with a young co-star before,” Anderson said. “It keeps me on my toes. It refreshes my love for the art. It is totally rewarding.”
And playing a ghost poses additional challenges. “It’s interesting,” he said. “Normally you’re reacting to everybody” on stage, but, having to create a sense of invisibility necessitates “a lot more subtle things, nuances.”
Jolley, who just finished a run in a Long Island production of “Annie” where she played an orphan coincidentally named Molly, is excited over her first leading role.
“It’s going to be very fun,” she said. And, she pointed out, “It’s a lot of lines, especially for a 9-year-old. I practice every day with my mom.”
The pressure will be somewhat relieved in the upcoming performances as the actors will carry their scripts as they make their way around the stage.
Monica Barczak, accustomed to appearing on local stages in musicals, takes on the more serious role of Jack’s wife, who tries to find her place in life without her husband. Not only is it a change of pace for her, but she finds that working with the playwright present “is exciting,” adding, “You have a hand in it.”
Radu, 33, began writing the play five years ago while he was working as a venue director at the annual NYC International Fringe Festival.
“I was around these cool people who were writing and this one came to me,” he said. “Even on the train I’d have my notepad. I was always jotting things down.”
Since 2007, the play has undergone a couple of rewrites, and the budding playwright, who had already written several prior pieces, continues to tweak throughout rehearsals.
“We’ve cut, we’ve added, we’ve fixed,” he said. “I cut a character.”
Radu, who was a drama/theater/dance major at Queens College, referred to one of the important lessons he learned as a writing student.
“The delete key is your best friend,” he said.
Another cast member, Paulie Philip, who plays multiple roles, appreciates having the play’s author in the room. “You can ask the source, ‘What do you mean by this?’ It’s eye-opening to him and us. Hearing the words helps him understand his own story.
“It’s nice to play out someone’s imagination. We’re Nick’s mind on stage,” he said.
To help delineate the play’s different locations, a narrator (Laura Packer, who also doubles in the role of a self-proclaimed witch) will read aloud the stage directions.
The company, rounded out by Renee Delio and Paul Morisi as Molly’s parents, had their read-through, generally the first step in the rehearsal process, at the beginning of April and have been rehearsing sporadically since.
Following the July 1 performance, Radu said, “I’d like to get it produced in Queens community theater or in the city.”
Teaming up with Radu as co-producer is Malini Singh McDonald, one of a group of investors in the current Broadway revival of “Godspell.”
“When I attended the first reading [of “Imaginary”] and heard how natural the lines flowed out of the actors’ mouths, I realized there was something very special in this play,” she said.
“The audience that sees these two readings will be a part of the life of this play,” she said. For her, the greatest challenge in producing a new work is “creating the buzz around it. I do hope the end result can be a Broadway run.”
When: July 1, 2 p.m.
Where: Once Upon a Time, 87-61 111 St., Richmond Hill