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Father-daughter drama is well done, but tough to watch

Taylor Steward and Michael James Reed in Blue Rose Stage Collective's production of "I'll Pray For You So Hard."
Taylor Steward and Michael James Reed in Blue Rose Stage Collective's production of "I'll Pray For You So Hard."

Powerhouse performances mark a compelling and challenging piece, “I'll Pray for You So Hard.”

As father and daughter, Michael James Reed and Taylor Steward collide with such explosive force in a disarming exchange as to leave us emotionally spent.

The Blue Rose Stage Collective has modestly produced this 2015 drama by Halley Feiffer at the Satori, a midtown art space.

The pair fill the space with thunder and lightning. The play is only 83 minutes long, but its intensity is lasting.

Reed, one of the most celebrated actors in town, plays David, a blowhard playwright whose bitterness comes spewing out in a late-night conversation with his daughter, Ella.

The young insecure actress appeared earlier in a modern version of Chekhov's "The Seagull," as Masha, not the part of Nina, a juicier role. It is a sore spot with her dad. She awaits the reviews.

Oh, he rants about hacks and has-beens, and particularly critics (ahem).

Supportive of his daughter but in a coarse way, their talk veers into a toxic place and there's no way to salvage it.

Of course, copious amounts of white wine and casual pot-smoking and cocaine-sniffing only add gasoline to the recrimination pile.

Ella is both in awe of and intimidated by her famous father, and Steward projects both easily.

But when the play takes up five years later, her transition into a hardened, jaded playwright isn't as natural.

The sins of the father have come home to roost. Much has happened to Reed's character, too, a mere shell of his former self.

The emptiness of their lives is so jarring that it's tough to swallow this chain of events.

But the acting is first-rate.

Director Tom Martin has fluidly staged the action to never seem static, despite it being set in a NYC apartment kitchen.

Mark Wilson's lighting design and Benjamin Lewis's sound design enhance the city setting.

Wilson also designed the sparse set, focusing on the actors, not the interior.

Playwright Feiffer is the daughter of Jules Feiffer, a famous cartoonist who was also involved in plays and movies.

Not sure if the arts dynamic is any reflection of their relationship, as daddy issues are raised in both characters.

The play is tough and uncompromising, but the performances are layered and the production sincere.

"I'll Pray for You So Hard"

Who: Blue Rose Stage Collective

When: Thursdays - Sundays at 8 p.m. Thursdays - Sundays through Nov. 6

Where: The Satori, 3003 Locust, St. Louis

Information: Www. Brownpapertickets.com/event2666888

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