Finborough Theatre, London – until 25 March 2017
Guest reviewer: Charlotte Darcy
At first glance, I’m Gonna Pray For You So Hard appears to be a somewhat self-indulgent glance into the life of David, an egotistical celebrated playwright complaining about a ‘hard done by’ life, whilst surrounded by a lavish and modern apartment, with a long standing marriage and a loving daughter. However, it quickly transpires that years of poor choices in his childhood and career have instilled in David a highly damaged and addictive persona that, in a single night, whilst waiting to read his daughters off Broadway play review, destroys his comfortable, conceited lifestyle and brings his world crashing own around him.
Adrian Lukis is David, in a role spans a great deal of emotional intensity, varying from playful, fatherly pride and affection, to spiteful and egotistical aggression within the space of seconds. Lukis portrays each state with great intelligence and depth. His is the standout performance of the two hander and his clear understanding and depiction of David’s destructive personality and ingrained sense of self-loathing is heart wrenching and ultimately, praiseworthy. In spite of this, the juxtaposition of David’s apparent obsession with leaving himself a more positive legacy than that left by his own father and his near violent mistreatment of Ella (whether intentional or not) creates some confusion within the character. A fault not in the acting but in the writing and direction of the play.
It is clear that Ella (Jill Winternitz) has an almost obsessive admiration for her father and hangs on his every word, even going so far as to mirror not only his drinking and drug habits but his use of language as well. Winternitz’s performance feels underwhelming against the performance given by Lukis. What she lacks in subtlety however is made up for in passion creating a performance that seems almost surreal in such an intimate space giving credence to the adage “less is more”.
Despite its flaws Halley Feiffer’s play is a harrowing yet interesting story that genuinely makes one care for the characters. Jake Smith creates a piece that both moves and distresses the audience, touching upon a number of sensitive topics.