Saturday, February 28, 2015

I'm Gonna Pray for You So Hard **

The best I can say for Halley Feiffer’s overwrought drama at Atlantic Stage 2 is that it offers a chance for Reed Birney to once again demonstrate that he is one of New York’s finest actors. As David, an embittered alcoholic playwright, he spends the first hour venting spleen against everyone involved in New York theater. His audience is his daughter Ella (Betty Gilpin), an aspiring actress waiting for the reviews of her performance as Masha in “The Seagull.” During the long first scene, Gilpin is called upon mainly to shriek, screech, scream, squeal and shout, to the point that I thought her character was developmentally challenged. David’s casual cruelty to Ella escalates as the evening progresses, fueled by wine, weed and coke, and finally reaches a breaking point. In the second scene, five years later, we learn that Ella has truly become her father’s daughter. Birney’s performance in this scene is absolutely riveting and Gilpin finally gets a chance to do more than make appreciative noises. Mark Wendland’s version of the kitchen of an Upper West Side apartment is appropriately claustrophobic. Jessica Pabst’s costumes are fine, especially her blood-red dress for Ella in the second scene. Trip Cullman directed. Although I really disliked the material, I was happy for the opportunity to see Birney in action. Running time: 90 minutes, no intermission.

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