Atlantic Theater Company Stage 2
Through February 15, 2015
Great writing, excellent acting, and highly unpleasant to sit through (intentionally so, which I suppose makes that a compliment). Famous playwright father David (Reed Birney) and aspiring actress daughter Ella (Betty Gilpin) tear each other apart while drinking, snorting, and waiting for the reviews of Ella’s first off-Broadway performance. The two characters in Halley Feiffer’s “I’m Gonna Pray For You So Hard” are neither likable nor sympathetic, nor is the father’s late-in-the-play attempt at reconciliation easy to believe.
It’s hard to imagine any father-daughter in such an astringent relationship (if that’s what it is), even allowing for dramatic license of condensing a lot of lifelong pain into 90 minutes. Feiffer is cartoonist/playwright Jules Feiffer’s daughter; I can only hope this isn’t autobiographical.
That said, Feiffer knows how to write, how to build tension, how to create star turns. I haven’t seen her film, “He’s Way More Famous Than You,” which she both wrote and stars in, but in answer to Ella’s question to an interviewer in this play, “Did I move you?” Feiffer moved me to want to take a look at that film and to see her next play.
Mention also to Trip Cullman, whose direction puts Birney and Gilpin in a nonstop pas-de-deux through their own discomfort. Cullman’s work on Tarrell Alvin McCraney’s “Choir Boy” had a similarly memorable choreographic fluidity. (Seen January 13, 2015.)