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"HIGH", with Kathleen Turner , at the Booth Theatre
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"HIGH", with Kathleen Turner , at the Booth Theatre

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A New Play by Matthew Lombardo
(HIGH Website)

Starring Kathleen Turner

Stephen Kunken and Evan Jonigkeit

At the
Booth Theatre
222 West 45th Street

Directed by Rob Ruggiero

Set Design: David Gallo
Costume Design: Jess Goldstein
Lighting Design: John Lasiter
Sound Design & Original Compositions:
Vincent Olivieri
Special Makeup Design: Joe Rossi
Production Supervisor:
Arthur Siccardi & Patrick Sullivan
Casting: Pat McCorkle, CSA
Production Stage Manager: Bess Marie Glorioso
Company Manager: Jennifer Hindman Kemp
Marketing & Advertising: aka
Press Representative: Boneau/Bryan-Brown
Assoc. Producer: Lawrence J. Moss
General Management: Leonard Soloway

Dr. Roberta E. Zlokower
April 21, 2011

Kathleen Turner is one of the most gripping actors onstage these days, and, as Sister Jamison Connelly, in a residential rehab center, she is one of a cast of three in the powerful new play, by Matthew Lombardo, HIGH. Turner’s religious character is a recovering alcoholic herself, who’s also done drugs with the best of them. Her desperate past brought her to the Church, where she was transformed into a tough, relentless counselor to tormented and troubled youths. Her supervisor, who forcefully hands off Cody Randall (Evan Jonigkeit), as her personal assignment, is Father Michael Delpapp (Stephen Kunken). It takes two full acts to reveal the import and depth of Father Delpapp’s mysterious insistence on keeping Cody sealed at their center and solely in Sister Connelly’s care, far from police and outside agencies. Ms. Turner is seen in spotlight soliloquies, under a surreal nighttime sky, agonizing over her plight and the angst-filled family that propelled her fate. Her face lights with passion, her performance is natural and thick-skinned; but, beneath those many layers, her malaise is exposed.

Mr. Jonigkeit, who stark nakedly attacks his counselor in one intense scene, has a gesture for every moment, whether it’s drug-induced, fear-induced, anger-induced, privacy-induced, or guilt-induced. He smiles and sighs, when drugs take effect, twitches and flails, when they wear off. He’s panther-like in surrounding his prey, as Sister Connelly has control of his needs and his safety. They play an uneven balancing act, until Sister Connelly is put on notice by Father Delpapp that this struggle will resolve between the three, no outside assistance allowed. Mr. Kunken plays the Priest with a reserved, confident demeanor. He’s in full charge, and the moment he’s threatened, he makes his power known. The audience is soon in on his intensity of interest, but further revelations are known close to curtain. His manner, at the moment of resolution, speaks for itself, a fascinating study in conquering the role. What was most poignant in the unfolding narration was Cody’s entrée into the drug scene, through his prostitute mother’s clients, who then used him as prey for sex through drugs. Once Cody was hooked, he made money on his own, in similar ways, but with disastrous results. Each character was riddled with guilt and trying to survive.

Matthew Lombardo, who also wrote Looped, covered weightier material here with deep sensitivity in powerful narratives. David Gallo’s sets are focused, imposing, and stark. A glowing, white brick wall from stage to rafters brings us into the streets. The emptiness of the rehab space brings us into the characters’ guts. John Lasiter lights both with attention to time and mood. Jess Goldstein dresses Ms. Turner in a black pantsuit and an ornamental cross. Rob Ruggiero directs for deep audience connections. Kudos to all.

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For more information, contact Dr. Roberta E. Zlokower at