- CHARITY BENEFIT
The critics, for the most part, have panned Matthew Lombardo’s “High,” playing at the Booth Theatre until Sunday. This play is for those who have been abused repeatedly and still, deep down at their inner core, have faith that God will perform some kind of miracle. In that event, this play will move you. As I have written in past reviews, there is an overwhelming amount of plays on the subject of “where are you God?” “High” is no exception and in Lombardo’s play, he is silent as faith is left on High.
Kathleen Turner purrs, sarcastically reports, wittily retorts and digs into the heart of the matter as Jamison Connelly, a nun and former alcoholic whose demons have and will never cease, as far as we can see. When forced by Father Michael Delpapp (Stephen Kunken) to help Cody Randall (Evan Jonigkeit), a homosexual prostitute and drug addict, suspected for the rape and murder of a 14-year-old boy, she is appalled and refuses. Blackmailed into rehabilitating him, Sister Connelly is dragged back to her own past horrors that have led her to become a nun.
This is Turner’s show. She is so real and humanistic, that there is no doubt in your mind as to how she won two Golden Globes and was nominated for an Oscar and a Tony. When she walks on stage in front of a projection of hundreds of lights resembling stars, she illuminates like the brightest among them, holding us in the palm of her hand. Turner’s performance is flawless as she reveals Sister Connelly’s pain questioning redemption and forgiveness with humor.
Jonigkeit, making his Broadway debut, is powerful. This is someone who never stood a chance at a normal life. Cody, high on heroin, sears the stage as he strips completely nude, exhibiting his base animal instincts. Circumstances have made him wild and untamable. The chemistry between Jonigkeit and Turner grows so that the characters’ long history of suffering as revealed, make their darkest secrets heart wrenching.
Stephen Kunken is the weak link here. Serving as a catalyst, he fails to make us understand his motives and for the most part we believe he is the first person to have raped Cody, though this is not the case. “High” does not settle for the easy way out. For those who have not been abused and have not dealt with the torturous pain, there may be difficulty in understanding this play. You might find it trite. If, however you have gone through experiences that have no comforting answers, yet still trust and believe God is there, you will understand this completely.
The ending is not a happily ever after. It cuts and leaves wounds much like the characters themselves. Sometimes lives are like the movie of the week and those who have not lived them find fault.
There are only two performances of “High” before it ends much too soon. There is relevance to what is seen and heard on this stage, though hard to take, especially during this Easter season.