Review: HIGH

by Lynn on May 11, 2012

in The Passionate Playgoer

At the Royal Alexandra Theatre until May 13. Written by Matthew Lombardo. Directed by Rob Ruggiero. Set by David Gallo. Costumes by Jess Goldstein. Lighting by John Lasiter. Starring: Tim Altmeyer, Evan Jonigkeit, and Kathleen Turner.

Kathleen Turner has the gust of a bandit. She has acted in some sexually fearless films (Body Heat, Romancing the Stone). She’s had health problems, a dependence on alcohol, a career that’s had ups and downs, but she’s always come back, fighting, and positive.

She starred in HIGH on Broadway last year where it opened and closed quickly. She believes in the play so she she’s taking it on the road. It concludes its one week run on Sunday, May 13. Because of a packed theatre schedule, I only got to it today.

Turner plays Sister Jamison (Jamie) Connelly—a swearing-recovering-alcoholic-nun. She works with addicts to help them recover. Her boss, Father Michael DelPapp, sends a challenging case her way, and insists she take it. Cody Randall is a nineteen-years-old meth addict (among other things) gay, a hustler and picked up when the police find him with a dead young teen. They are trying to find our how the boy died. In the mean time Father DelPapp tries to save Cody (for reasons we find out later) by insisting Jamie take the case.

Cody doesn’t want to be saved, or become clean or deal with this tough-broad nun. She doesn’t let him get away with anything. He challenges her. She pushes back. She tries to introduce him to a higher being. It’s tough going. There are startling revelations; a conflict of wills; trauma; drama; redemption but not necessarily in the way we expect.

Playwright Matthew Lombardo knows whereof he speaks. He’s a recovering meth addict who has been clean for almost five years. At times HIGH is preachy, often funny, harrowing and a bit sloppy—it seems to have ended twice.

The set by David Gallo is simple and efficient. John Lasiter’s lighting of a sky with stars is a bit obvious (there are several references to characters wanting to be high by flying up to the stars). Other characters want to get high another way.

As Father DelPapp, Tim Altmeyer is righteous with a sense of guilt which makes him really do wrong by Cody, good intentions notwithstanding.

As Cody, Evan Jonigkeit is twitchy, pacing, has attitude and anger for days and is deeply sad because he’s so lost.

We are in the room of course because of Kathleen Turner who plays the nun. Turner is fog-voiced, knows how to frame a laugh-line and has terrific timing for a joke. Bless her for not being microphoned. She projects, booms even. There is confidence. What is troubling is the delivery. She speaks in spurts of a few words. This breaks up sentences so that they are not said smoothly straight through, but with hesitation—almost as if she has run out of air after a few words. This makes her performance jagged, awkward and even portentous. The play and Turner’s performance didn’t leave me feeling very high at the end, alas.

Tickets at TicketKing; or

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