I'm Gonna Pray for You So Hard

Halley Feiffer definitely has something to say about theatre. In her gripping new play, a two-scene two-hander that features a father (Reed Birney) and a daughter (Betty Gilpin), Feiffer deftly waxes poetic about what it means to be an artist while also exploring a complicated family relationship.

The first scene finds David and Ella talking in the family kitchen. It's late at night; they have been drinking and continue to do so. David is a playwright and has lots of stories to tell. Ella (a possible proxy for Feiffer, a writer who is also an actress) is an aspiring actress. It's opening night of Ella's new show, and David is regaling her with stories of how he made it and what Ella has to do in order to succeed. There are wonderfully hilarious moments but Feiffer doesn't take the easy route. There are also biting, vicious moments (even more in the second scene), tender moments, and provocative moments.

Feiffer gives her two actors plenty to work with, which is fine since Birney (who worked with Feiffer on Tigers Be Still and earned a Tony nomination last season for Casa Valentina) and Gilpin (We Live Here, Nurse Jackie) are such terrific actors, and they're directed by Trip Cullman (who worked with Feiffer on The Substance of Fire, and also directed Murder Ballad). Birney commands the stage in the first scene, chewing scenery and being an unrelenting, indomitable force. Gilpin is quiet and cautious at first, as Ella tries to connect with her father. Scene two, set five years later, sees Ella and David in quite different circumstances, and Gilpin is fully in command.

I won't give anything away, but the transformations are shocking without being manipulative. Feiffer challenges us to think about what we're watching, to engage with it, wrestle with it and feel something because of it. She succeeds.