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I'm Gonna Pray For You So Hard at the Finborough Theatre

Published by: Carolin Kopplin on 4th Mar 2017 | View all blogs by Carolin Kopplin

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David (Adrian Lukis) and his daughter Ella (Jill Winternitz)

 If I don't make it, will you still love me?

Being the child of a star is hard, especially if you decide to follow in your parent's footsteps. Ella's father David is a Pulitzer prize winning playwright. Ella is an aspiring actor and tonight could be the start of a promising career.

The play begins as father and daughter are waiting for the notices of Ella's Off-Broadway production of The Seagull. Ella did not get the highly coveted role of Nina but had to be satisfied with Masha, which David finds rather irksome, blaming the obvious incompetence of the director for his idiotic casting decision. The fact that the director rejected David's latest play might add somewhat to his judgement. Drinking wine and smoking pot in his cosy West Side apartment, David shares his vast theatre experience with his daughter, indulging in a bit of critic bashing and warning her against playing it safe as an actor just to please the critics: "Be transgressive, be bewildering, be anything but safe!"

The childlike Ella, who verges on the edge of hysteria, idolises her father, hanging on his every word and encouraging him to repeat anecdotes from his life that she has probably heard many times before. David expects his daughter's love and adoration. Despite David's bravura, one wrong word or the slightest criticism can set him off to show his innate cruelty. When Ella mentions that David did not actuallly win an Oscar, only an Oscar nomination, his revenge is absolute, leaving Ella in tears.

David is proud of going his own way after being thrown out by his father for neglecting his school work. On his road to fame, David had no time for losers or any kind of weakness. People who disappointed or slighted him in any way were eradicated from his life, including his father whose letters remained unanswered until the day he died. Ella is afraid that she might lose her father's love if she does not live up to his expectations. 

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Ella (Jill Winternitz) and David (Adrian Lukis)

Halley Feiffer's disturbing two-hander about the destructive relationship between a famous playwright and his daughter, is hard to watch. Jill Winternitz as Ella desperately tries to please her father in any possible way, clinging to him as if he was a life buoy saving her from drowning. She listens to his monologues with exaggerated attention, eager to delve into his cornupia of wisdom. Yet after their inevitable altercation, Ella follows her father's advice and - maybe inevitably - becomes just like him. Adrian Lukis portrays David as a harsh and unforgiving man who launches bilious and homophobic attacks on those he despises, expecting his daughter to approve of everything he says and to always, always agree with him. Any little hint of criticism leads to a vicious counterattack. He wants Ella to follow his example - and in the end she does, in every way.

Adrian Lukis and Jill Winternitz are outstanding in Jake Smith's hard-hitting production.

By Carolin Kopplin 

Until 25th March 2017

Finborough Theatre

Running time: 90 minutes with no interval

Images by Scott Rylander.

Comments

1 Comment

  • Cameron Lowe
    by Cameron Lowe 10 months ago
    Thanks, Carolin. Great review as always.
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