Tuesday, April 19, 2011


Posted by Mondschein

"High" at the Booth Theatre, March 29, 2011

Matthew Lombardo returns to Broadway from last season's so-so Looped with story of sin, redemption and weakness.  Sister Jamison Connelly (Kathleen Turner) is a well-respected counselor at a Catholic-sponsored rehab facility.  Her supervisor, Father Michael (Stephen Kunken), convinces her to take on 19 year old Cody (Evan Jonigkeit) whose addiction profile falls outside of the facility's usual requirements (gay, not Catholic).  High is a better effort than Looped, but still has its own issues.

Ms. Turner's nun, Sister Jamie, is everything you'd expect from her - tough as nails, jaded, cynical and all let's-just-get-down-to-business-shall-we.  Cody's arrival at the facility comes when he's found high in a seedy motel with the dead body of a 14 year old boy.  She immediately suspects that Cody killed the boy, but no charges were made and Father Michael persuaded the court to put Cody in his facility, rather than a state-run rehab center.  This increases her suspicions and the counseling sessions begin, highly confrontational with Sister Jamie biting, every time Cody baits her.  Everyone's got secrets they don't want to tell.  Revelations follow, fortunately, some of which not in the way one might have guessed (to Mr. Lombardo's credit), but others don't ring true.

As Sister Jamie, Ms. Turner is all about the tough-guy, been-there-done-that counselor, daring her patient to shock her with his history.  Ms. Turner plays her as being so tough and hard, it undercuts the effect when he actually manages to do just that.  When she finally has her own breakdown, it's just not believable.  This result is likely the combination of the writing and Ms. Turner's acting choices.

Mr. Kunken, last seen on Broadway as Andy Fastow in Enron, has a bit less to work with as Father Michael.  When Sister Jamie confronts him about Cody, Mr. Lombardo writes a reaction that is totally inconsistent with how a director of a substance abuse rehabilitation center would respond, even with the plot contrivances in place.

It is Mr. Jonigkeit who does all the heavy lifting in this play, and admirably so for his NY and Broadway debut.  He's supported by the writing, Mr. Lombardo's best in the piece, and he fully delivers.  Recalcitrant, defiant, compromising, and compliant from moment to moment, he accomplishes all with great dexterity.  It's a notable performance.

Director Rob Ruggiero returns along with Mr. Lombardo from Looped, improving upon his work.  I'm certain that Ms. Turner is quite a force to reckon with in the rehearsal room, and one can see the results of that in her performance.  He elicits excellent work from Mr. Jonigkeit, as noted above.

David Gallo's stark black box set with a constellation of backdrop starlight and simple white furniture and doors works fairly well.  There was one effect that I wish had been better executed.  In the stage floor were three acrylic panels, uplighted for monologues.  I'm guessing the intent was to have the actor appear floating in a starry sky, but only the balcony really got that impact.  Perhaps it was John Lasiter's lights that didn't pull off the effect.

High is on an open-ended run.

No comments:

Post a Comment