Whether it was bad timing (there have been a glut of plays and musicals that have opened within the past two weeks) poor reviews, or poor attendance at the box office that didn’t allow word of mouth to spread the good word about HIGH, a new play resonating with religion, redemption and faith by Matthew Lombardo starring Kathleen Turner the unfortunate fact remains that HIGH closed Sunday April 24th.
Where are miracles when you need them most? Certainly HIGH deserved a longer life. It should not have closed so soon after opening. Hopefully it will have an after life in regional theatre. It is well written and well crafted. It has humor and three characters that totally connect with its audience.
Sister Jamison Connelly (a superb Kathleen Turner) is a modern day nun who counsels addicts, has a history of alcoholism that she is recovering from and has the street smarts and vocabulary to match any addict that she needs to help. There is no better actress that could have played this part with such commanding compassion, humor and grit.
She’s tough as she needs to be when Father Michael Delpapp (Stephen Kunken) brings a young man of 19 to her for help. A young man who doesn’t want help, from her or anyone else. A drug addicted gay hustler who tried to commit suicide with a younger boy of 14 who was doing drugs with him and who died in the process. Whether or not Cody Randall (an incredibly powerful Evan Jonigkeit) raped and murdered the youngster is a mystery.
One among many mysteries that unfold with a few surprising twists supplied by the playwright that keeps us enthralled for two acts.
Cody has had a terrible life thus far. No dad. Mother a hooker. Raped repeatedly by his mother’s trick. He has no time for Sister Connelly’s therapy and fights her at every turn pacing across the stage like a feral cat. He has such magnetism that to see him and Ms. Turner go at with each other is like seeing two prize fighters in the ring. They are perfectly matched opponents in HIGH. When he strips down naked with his sores and needle marks clearly visible to shock her and then attempts to rape her we witness the terrible and shocking depths that this youngster has fallen prey to.
Stephen Kunken has the less flamboyant role but comes into his own when his past catches up with him.
The simple yet elegant set by David Gallo has an urban monastic feeling – with a couple of white walls that appear from nowhere and a galaxy of stars for when Sister Connelly, in monologue, fills us in as to her history, her demons and hopes. As directed by Rob Ruggiero HIGH comes across clear and believable.
It’s a shame that a miracle didn’t arrive to save HIGH. I would have highly recommended it. www.highonbroadway.com Photo: Joan Marcus
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