Review: ‘High’ starring Kathleen Turner

The deep exploration of the necessity for forgiveness, and how forgiveness itself redeems is a central axis of this work. However, this approach is not sufficient to redeem the play itself.

Kathleen Turner
Kathleen Turner & Evan Jonigkei
In Review

High

2.5 out of 5 stars
2.5 out of 5 stars - 'Comme ci, comme ça'
Directed by Rob Ruggiero
Starring Kathleen Turner, Evan Jonigkeit, Tim Altmeyer
March 21st - 25th
www.highontour.com
Review by
Kathleen Turner
Kathleen Turner & Evan Jonigkei

Advertisements for High rely upon the public’s fascination with Kathleen Turner, who plays Sister Jamie, an alcoholic nun who seeks her own personal redemption in the church. This play, which enjoyed a brief eight-day run on Broadway, is on tour, largely because of  Turner’s involvement. However, this work doesn’t truly deliver, despite inspired performances by Turner and her costar, Evan Jonigkeit, who plays the 19 year old hustler-addict, Cody Randall.

While emotional manipulation is precisely why some of us go to the theatre in the first place, it pains when the manipulation is done so obviously

High was written by Matthew Lombardo, who appears to aim for the tension of a thriller psychodrama. Many elements of the story, such as complex character of Sister Jamie, Father Delpapp’s (Tim Altmeyer) reluctance to explain his connection to the junkie who appeared at the treatment center, Cody Randall’s tortured past, and the mysterious death of a 14 year old should, in theory at least, provide rich fodder for such a thriller. Moreover, Lombardo knows of what he writes; his program notes articulately describe his own descent into addiction. However, junkies are a predictable lot, which makes this tediously slow going.

Even worse than the tedium, is the sense of being emotionally manipulated by this piece.  While emotional manipulation is precisely why some of us go to the theatre in the first place, it pains when the manipulation is done so obviously, as it is with the back stories of Sister Jamie and Cody Randall, whose previous lives sound like nothing more than an extreme version of a 12 step meeting monologue. Here, the audience manipulation feels as cheap a stunt as Cody Randall’s manipulation of his enabler Father Delpapp.

The better elements of the play have nothing to do with drug addiction. Surprisingly, Turner gives us a vision of what’s best in the Catholic church. A colleague who refers to himself as a recovering Catholic often speaks highly of Catholic notion that every person matters deeply – and laments that this value is undermined by an association with unsavory, deeply conservative political demagogues. Sister Jamison’s references to the duty to find god in yourself and in others provide insight into part of her motivation in treating junkies, and transcend a narrow vision associated with a particular faith. The deep exploration of the power and necessity of forgiveness, and how forgiveness itself redeems is a central axis of this work. However, this approach is not sufficient to redeem the play itself.

High plays the Curran through March 25th.

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Cy Ashley Webb
Cy spent the ‘80’s as a bench scientist, the tech boom doing intellectual property law, and the first decade of the millennium, aspiring to be the world’s oldest grad student at Stanford where she is interested in political martyrdom. Presently, she enjoys writing for Stark Insider and the SF Examiner, hanging out at Palo Alto Children's Theatre, and participating in various political activities. Democracy is not a spectator sport! Cy is a SFBATCC member.