Demanding perfection

Peter Parolin, as David, left, an Noelia Antweiler, as Ella, rehearse a scene from “I’m Gonna Pray For You So Hard” on Wednesday evening at the Gryphon Theatre.

Relative Theatrics opened its sixth season last night with a play about ambition, legacy and sacrifice.

“I’m Gonna Pray for You So Hard,” written by Halley Feiffer, is scheduled for 7:30 p.m. today, Saturday and Sept. 13-14 at the Gryphon Theatre, 710 Garfield. Tickets are $12 in advance or $16 the day of the performance for the general public, and $10 in advance or $14 the day of for students and seniors.

Directed by Anne Mason and starring Peter Parolin and Noelia Antweiler, the play, published in 2015, is a dark comedy about a famous playwright who demands perfection and critical acclaim for his daughter Ella, just as he does for his work. The play opens as the two characters await a New York Times review for her off-Broadway acting debut as Masha in Chekhov’s “The Seagull.”

“We see these two artists who go to extremes in the name of their craft, in the name of theater, very much in line with the way that one might see self-sacrifice of a religious fanatic in the name of their god,” said Mason. “In this role, the playwrights are the gods and the theater is the religion.”

Mason said the characters use stories and fame as a way to transcend mortal life, while true transcendence eludes them.

“The question, then, is if they learn that lesson in time or not,” she said.

One facet of Feiffer’s work that drew Mason to the play was the father-daughter relationship, which is less common in the dramatic cannon than other familial relationships.

“I thought that was a really interesting dynamic to place on stage,” she said.

Mason described Feiffer’s writing as “sharp,” adding that it captivated her from the first reading.

“I can only imagine, then, what will happen when put in the hands and bodies and mouths and minds of a couple of skilled actors,” she said.

Parolin is a long-time veteran of the Relative Theatrics stage, while Antweiler is a University of Wyoming graduate working in New York City. Mason said Antweiler brings an understanding of the New York theater world to her character, while her presence furthers collaborations between different realms of the theater world.

“A big part of wanting to bring her out here was to continue to create partnerships with professionals, bringing two worlds together — the professional theater world and our community theater of Relative Theatrics,” she said.

“I’m Gonna Pray for You So Hard” opens the sixth season of Relative Theatrics, with the selections centered on the theme Familiar Creations. Each of the four plays is written by a woman, and each explores a person’s responsibility for the things she creates, whether that offspring is physical or not.

“I’m Gonna Pray for You So Hard” contains adult language and themes and is not advisable for children. Audiences are limited to 50 people, with seating on the stage. Each production is followed by a chat with the cast and crew.

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