Lights up at GableStage's “I'm Gonna Pray for You So Hard” and you're immediately smacked back in your seat by a blizzard of every variation of every word ever beginning with f, c, s, mf, cs and all that venom can imagine, that streams from the mouths of David and his daughter Ella as he lectures her on how to be a star.
Tom Aulino is David, famous infamous playwright, dissipated one step from death, smoking, drinking, lurching around his NYC kitchen. He's wearing a flapping dressing gown over grubby shirt and pants and the left hand corner of his mouth lifts to blow out smoke. Gray hair beyond help. He's scorching theater critics, fellow writers, directors, and most of humanity.
Rebecca Behrens is Ella, his adoring twentyish daughter, limited at first to giggles, whats and reallys, as David spews the fears hidden in his arrogance.
He urges her to be more aggressive, write, produce and star in her own show. Be famous.
Ella has been cast in an off-B'way production of “The Seagull”. She wanted Nina, got the lesser Masha, and David reviles the director for not casting her as Nina. She and her father are awaiting the first review of the opening night.
They smoke from a hookah, David tells her of his father throwing him out of his home with nothing. They snort cocaine. The stories continue. She's heard them before. She giggles obediently, climbs into his lap, snuggles, hugs, he's the most wonderful daddy ever. And then she corrects a story. Mistake.
The review comes in on his phone, he tells her it's a rave, lengthy pause while she absorbs the joy, and then he tells her the rave is for the actress playing Nina.
Five years later in a lengthy scene in a downtown theatre she's become a stage success, her new show opening, screeching on the phone, drinking. She's no longer Daddy's little Princess. She's Daddy.
And Daddy reappears, limping, stroke victim, clutching flowers. Here's to your success.
“I'm Gonna Pray...” runs seventy five minutes and Tom Aulino dominates just about every minute.
He's every bit the dissolute, aggrieved, homophobic, sneering, fearful, hateful David. If there isn't a song about Aulino's performance called “I Can't Keep My Eyes Offa You” there should be.
Rebecca Behrens gives Ella the perfect touch as the cutesy steel pie.
Halley Feiffer wrote “I'm Gonna Pray For You So Hard”. She's the daughter of Jules Feiffer, cartoonist, playwright, author, screenwriter. Make of that what you will.
Director Joseph Adler is presenting adult theatre. Excellent.
Set by Lyle Baskin, lighting Steve Welsh, sound/music Matt Corey, Costumes Ellis Tillman, Props Beth Fath. It's a GableStage show.
“I'm Gonna Pray For You So Hard” runs through July 8 at GableStage in the Biltmore Hotel, 1200 Anastasia Avenue, Coral Gables. 305-445-1119. www.gablestage.org