I'm Gonna Pray for You So Hard
Time Out says
This off-Broadway hit is a fascinating, flawed look at a corrosive father-daughter relationship
Most of this recent American play covers just one night in the life of a father and daughter: New Yorkers whose happiness is cruelly tied to the shifting sands of the showbiz industry. David (Adrian Lukis) is a playwright and screenwriter whose early promise and talent have been eclipsed by booze and bitterness. Ella (Jill Winternitz) is his daughter, an actor who is spending the hours immediately after the opening night of her new play at home with her dad, existing off nerves and his supply of booze and coke.
The daughter needs protection; the father can’t provide it. Instead, David nags that Ella should be playing Nina in ‘The Seagull’, not the lesser character of Masha, and slips into unhelpful rants about directors, critics and anything else that comes to mind.
It’s an unhealthy situation, intimate and hostile, with David quick to swap cuddles for savagery. Playwright Halley Feiffer serves us a concentrated dose of a toxic relationship. Winternitz plays Ella like an open wound, laughing at her father’s behaviour, idolising him but also appearing horribly susceptible to his poison. David could come across solely as a monster – but Lukis gives him vulnerability too, and never more so than when David appears in Ella’s life again five years later, unwell and repentant. She’s now the monster he once was.
The balance of this play is uneven, and there are cracks in its structure that Jake Smith’s efficient direction can’t overcome. After an intense and lengthy first act, the speediness of the second, with so much left to be bridged in our minds, is disconcerting and not wholly satisfying. But ‘I’m Gonna Pray for You So Hard’ is worth seeing for the first act alone: it’s an uneasy, often powerful microscopic study of a parent-child relationship gone very wrong.
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