A tense thriller that will leave KCMO audiences shaking

by Rob Howard
Associate Editor

“The father playwright character, we start to see more what troubles him and what he thinks is good parenting,” says Jeff Church, director of I’m Gonna Pray For You So Hard at Kansas City’s Unicorn Theatre. “Is he trying to give his daughter tough love, or is he crushing her dreams.”

The daughter, Ella, is a precocious and fiercely competitive actress whose sole aim in life is making her famous playwright father, David, proud. But it definitely is not a squishy, nice father-daughter play. The Unicorn Theatre production stars Kansas City favorites Theodore Swetz (Bengal Tiger at the Baghdad Zoo) and Dina Thomas (Bad Jews).

“What starts off as theatre stories of a once award-winning older playwright passing along his wisdom to his younger actress daughter who’s just breaking into the business is the set up,” says Church. “The epic nature is that it’s one night where they are drinking wine and waiting for reviews [of her latest part] to come out.

“It moves to heavier consumption of other things, beyond booze, waiting for the reviews. Their behavior becomes more and more alarming to us as the audience.”

The New York Observer’s drama critic Rex Reed, says, “Provocative, sensitive, shocking…. A tense thriller that left me shaking!”

And shocking it is, according to Church. “As this booze and drug filled night rolls on, Ella makes decisions,” he says. “Then the play stops and jumps forward four years. And that is what makes the play so shocking,” says Church. “The way the daughter turns out four years later is really something.” He won’t tell us what it is, because that would be a major spoiler.

“It’s a thriller. It’s a thrill to see what’s going to happen. It’s impossible to predict. It’s so character driven, you can’t predict the plot outcome. Because it is character driven it comes off in a sort of way the more like life works, than the romantic way that a TV movie might tie things up neatly.”

“The play certainly asks what kind of a parent are we, and as a child growing up being influenced by our parents, how much do we let that influence ourselves in our lives?” he says.

Church praised the intimacy of the Unicorn Theatre’s space, the quality of the set design and the professionalism of the performers. “The experience is something that is quite special and different than any other in town. People who try the Unicorn might be surprised how involved you get in the play, with a great set and polished actors. It makes the experience really powerful. At the Unicorn it is very intimate experience,” he concludes.

I’m Gonna Pray For You So Hard opens April 19 and runs through May 14 at the Unicorn Theatre, 3828 Main St., Kansas City, MO 64111. Tickets are available online at www.unicorntheatre.org, or by phone at (816) 531-7529 X10.

Copyright 2017 The Gayly - 4/6/2017 @ 7:57 a.m. CDT