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Essay

Halley Feiffer: A Retrospective

By Lizzie Stern, Literary Manager
January 27, 2019

As a writer and actor in theater, television, and film, Halley Feiffer has a reputation for excavating the darkest depths of the human condition. With disarming candor and humor, she writes about and portrays fierce, funny women finding their way out of rock bottom — sliding precipitously between narcissism and self-loathing, surviving trauma and abusive relationships, and coping with addiction and mental illness. As we welcome Halley Feiffer for her first production at Playwrights as an actor and writer, we invite you to learn more about the broad scope of her accomplishments in both creative fields.

Halley Feiffer, Sony Pictures Entertainment.

The Squid and The Whale, 2005 
Written and Directed by Noah Baumbach

In this wryly comedic family tragedy — nominated for an Academy Award for Best Screenplay — Feiffer plays 16-year-old Sophie, the girlfriend of Walt (Jesse Eisenberg) whose parents (Jeff Daniels and Laura Linney) are divorcing. Feiffer’s Sophie is a humble and humane anchor in a sea of intellectual vanity.

 

Halley Feiffer and Natasha Lyonne by Sara Krulwich.

Tigers Be Still, Roundabout, 2010 
Written by Kim Rosenstock, Directed by Sam Gold

In this dark comedy about family mental illness, Feiffer played Sherry, an art therapist with a new lease on life after emerging from a deep depression, which still grips her mother and sister. Feiffer was nominated for a Drama League Award for her performance. 

 

Halley Feiffer and David Rasche, HBO.

Bored to Death, Season 3, HBO, 2011
Created by Jonathan Ames

Feiffer had a five-episode arc as Emily, a recovering alcoholic and pothead in love with an older man. Emily goes toe-to-toe with her narcissistic and mostly absent father, played by Ted Danson, who tries to dissuade her from marrying. 

 

Jimmy Davis, Mary Beth Hurt, Halley Feiffer and Susan Bennett by Walter McBride.

The House of Blue Leaves, Broadway Revival, 2011
Written by John Guare, Directed by David Cromer 

Feiffer had the deceptively small yet deeply impactful role of Little Nun in the Broadway revival of this canonized dark comedy. With just seven lines of dialogue, Feiffer won a Theatre World Award for her performance. 

 

Katya Campbell, Jen Ponton, and Keira Keeley by Hal Horowitz.

How to Make Friends and Then Kill Them, Rattlestick, 2013 
Written by Halley Feiffer, Directed by Kip Fagan 

Feiffer made her professional playwriting debut with this comedic, excoriating excavation of female friendship. Chronicling the evolving relationship between two bullying sisters and their vulnerable friend, the play exposes the co-dependence and abuse which cement the bonds between these girls as they mature (or don’t) into adults.

 

Halley Feiffer, Gravitas Ventures.

He’s Way More Famous Than You, 2013
Screenplay written by Halley Feiffer and Ryan Spahn, Directed by Michael Urie

Feiffer co-wrote and starred in this eviscerating satirical film, in which she portrays a fame-obsessed alcoholic egomaniac named Halley Feiffer. 

 

Daniel Eric Gold and Halley Feiffer by Carol Rosegg.

The Substance of Fire, Second Stage Revival, 2014
Written by Jon Robin Baitz, Directed by Trip Cullman 

In the 2014 revival of this family drama, Feiffer played the brainy and self-conscious Sarah, who’s caught in a battle of wills with her charismatic and self-involved brothers over their father’s estate plans. (The Substance of Fire premiered at Playwrights Horizons in 1991.)

 

Reed Birney and Betty Gilpin by Ahron R. Foster.

I’m Gonna Pray For You So Hard, The Atlantic, 2015
Written by Halley Feiffer, Directed by Trip Cullman 

This venomous, intimate two-hander charts the relationship between a father, a famous playwright, and his daughter, an ambitious actor early in her career. Exploring the infinite layers of their toxic dysfunction, Feiffer reveals the wells of self-loathing beneath the gauze of fame. 

 

Nathan Lane and John Slattery by Julieta Cervantes. Broadhurst Theatre.

The Front Page, Broadway Revival, 2016 
Written by Ben Hecht and Charles MacArthur, Directed by Jack O’Brien

In this 1928 classic comedy with an all-star Broadway revival cast (including Nathan Lane, John Slattery, John Goodman, Jefferson Mays, and Holland Taylor) Feiffer played Peggy, a young woman in love with an older, emotionally unavailable man. While performing in the show, Feiffer wrote The Pain of My Belligerence.

 

Halley Feiffer by Chris Whitaker.

A Funny Thing Happened... 
2016 at MCC, 2017 at The Geffen Playhouse (featuring Halley Feiffer) 
Written by Halley Feiffer, Directed by Trip Cullman 

A charged, twisted love connection grows between Karla, an irreverent stand-up comedian, and Don, a bedraggled millionaire, as they visit their dying parents in the same hospital room. Feiffer also starred in the 2017 Geffen Playhouse production of her bitingly acerbic, surprisingly redemptive comedy. 

 

Cristin Milioti, Tavi Gevinson, Rebecca Henderson, and Sheaun McKinney by Daniel Rader. 

Moscow Moscow Moscow Moscow Moscow Moscow
2017 at Williamstown Theatre Festival, 2019 Upcoming at MCC 
Written by Halley Feiffer, Directed by Trip Cullman 

Riffing on Chekhov’s Three Sisters, Feiffer preserves the skeletal plot of the original — meditating on dissatisfaction, isolation, class, and privilege — and infuses it with millennial language to reinvigorate the play’s urgent resonance for today’s audience.