Thursday, April 25, 2019

REVIEW: I’M GONNA PRAY FOR YOU SO HARD Via First Floor Theater at The Den Theatre April 20 – May 18, 2019

ChiIL Live Shows on our radar

Chicago Premiere!
First Floor Theater Presents

By Halley Feiffer
Directed by Cole von Glahn
April 20 – May 18, 2019 at The Den Theatre

(left to right) Amanda Caryl Fink and Tim Kidwell. All Production Photos by WHO IS SHE.

by bonnie kenaz-mara

This fast paced one act puts the nuclear in family, exploring fallout and contamination that lasts generations. Families are complicated, especially when the principal players are driven narcissists with ongoing patterns of abuse. First Floor Theater's latest, a father/daughter drama in this vein, packs a punch. I'm sure it helps that director, Cole von Glahn, has degrees in both Drama and Sociology, because this play is nothing if not dysfunctional relationship based. Sadly, these familial patterns do get passed down through generations, and even when growth and change occurs, there is lasting damage and often role reversals from victims to abusers. Amanda Caryl Fink as Ella and Tim Kidwell as her father David, expertly embody the narcissistic, competitive, destructive dynamic that ricochets from desperate declarations of love and need for approval to loathing and estrangement. 

I’M GONNA PRAY FOR YOU SO HARD is an intense exploration of the family dynamic of an award winning playwright and his adoring adult daughter and verbal punching bag. It's not always easy to watch the mind games, withholding, addiction, and verbal abuse, or the soul crushing sparring. Yet I'm intrigued by this man's petty cruelty, bullying, and back peddling on what I imagine are actual truths of his youth. This production is an interesting foray into regret, mining family traumas for fodder for creative works, struggle as a necessary precursor for artistic success, and the emotional toll of an industry where success depends on the approval of others and rave reviews. 

I'm also fascinated to see another on stage connection made between substance abuse and religion, with a character sliding between two seemingly opposite poles, that attract the same demographic time and again. I’M GONNA PRAY FOR YOU SO HARD features David's lifelong habit of prayer that evolves from sarcasm and retribution to sincerity and contrition. Meanwhile, Ella devolves from  a doormat to a dominant, derisive version of her father, while David trades drug addiction and alcoholism for religious addiction and AA. At least the latter is less likely to kill you. There is little action and simplistic set design, and ultimately the outcome is not unexpected, but this production is well played and worth a look. Recommended.

Bonnie Kenaz-Mara is a Chicago based writer-theater critic-photographer-videographer-actress-artist-general creatrix and Mama to two terrific teens. She owns two websites where she has published frequently since 2008: (adult) & (family friendly).

First Floor Theater is pleased to conclude its seventh season with the Chicago premiere of Halley Feiffer’s blisteringly funny play I’M GONNA PRAY FOR YOU SO HARD, directed by Cole von Glahn, playing April 20 – May 18, 2019 at FFT’s resident home, The Den Theatre (2B), 1331 N. Milwaukee Ave. in Chicago. Tickets are currently available at

I’M GONNA PRAY FOR YOU SO HARD features Amanda Caryl Fink and Tim Kidwell.

Ella is a precocious and fiercely competitive actress with a desperate need to make her father David, a famous playwright, proud. Over the course of a boozy, drug-fueled evening, Ella and David pass the time digging into family history, artistic passion and unspoken fears as they wait for the reviews, but what is unearthed can't simply be reburied. This daring play pulls the audience into the middle of a deeply complicated relationship, exploring how we build and break idealized versions of our loved ones.

The production team for I’M GONNA PRAY FOR YOU SO HARD includes: Joy Ahn (scenic design), Alexis Chaney (costume design), Becca Jeffords (lighting design), Sarah Espinoza (sound design), Claire Stone (properties design), Carrie Hardin (dialect coach), Anastar Alvarez (stage manager) and Caitlin McCarthy (production manager).

Location: The Den Theatre (2B), 1331 N. Milwaukee Ave. in Chicago

Regular Run: Friday, April 26 – Saturday, May 18, 2019

Curtain Times: Thursdays, Fridays and Saturdays at 7:30 pm; Sundays at 3 pm.

Industry Nights: Monday, April 29 at 7:30 pm and Monday, May 13 at 7:30 pm.

Tickets: Previews: $8. Regular Run: $25. Students $20. Tickets are currently available at

About the Artists
Halley Feiffer (Playwright) Halley Feiffer is a New York-based writer and actress. Her plays have been produced, commissioned and developed by Manhattan Theatre Club, Second Stage, New York Theatre Workshop, LAByrinth Theater Company, The O’Neill, The Orchard Project, Berkshire Theatre Group, Naked Angels, Cape Cod Theatre Project, SPACE on Ryder Farm, Keen Company, Partial Comfort Productions and the Amoralists. She is currently working on a stage adaption of THE BOY KINGS, Kate Losse's memoir about working at Facebook during its rising year. Halley is an alumna of terraNOVA’s Groundbreakers Playwrights’ Group, a former resident writer for Blue Man Group, former Playwright in Residence at Stella Adler Studio and a winner of the Young Playwrights Competition and the Lotos Foundation Prize. She is currently under commission by Manhattan Theatre Club/The Sloan Foundation, Jen Hoguet Productions and Playwrights Horizons. Her work is published by Dramatists Play Service, Overlook Press, Vintage Books, Applause Books, and Smith & Kraus. Halley co-wrote and starred in the 2013 film HE'S WAY MORE FAMOUS THAN YOU, and co-created and stars in the web series WHAT'S YOUR EMERGENCY for (both directed by Michael Urie). She holds a BA from Wesleyan University.

Cole von Glahn (Director) Cole von Glahn is a Chicago-based director and production manager. He has been working with First Floor since moving to Chicago in 2015 before becoming the Director of Production in 2016. In that time, he has produced over a dozen company shows and events. Additionally, Cole serves as the Production Manager at Raven Theatre. In the past, he has administered and managed with Cherry Lane, Neverbird Project, Cleveland Play House, Northlight Theatre, and Marin Theatre Company. Outside of theatre, Cole is a board game designer and collaborative storyteller. He holds degrees in Drama and Sociology from Tufts University.

About First Floor Theater
Founded in 2012, First Floor Theater stages stories of individuals facing moments of radical change. Through a process of collaborative dramaturgy, FFT expands these stories to ask urgent social questions. For more information on First Floor Theater, visit

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