Theater Review: HIGH by Michael Lombardo (N.Y.C. – Broadway)

by Victoria Linchong on April 25, 2011

in Theater-New York

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DRUGS AND RELIGION

In full disclosure, I had a junkie boyfriend for about three years, so I have pretty firm opinions about drug addiction – none of them very sympathetic. Set in a Catholic rehab clinic, High by Michael Lombardo, which closed on Easter Sunday after a very brief run at the Booth Theater on Broadway, attempts to tackle the subject but never once digs beneath the sanctified surface of rehab programs and religion. Pouring on the platitudes, the play is really more histrionic than high.

Theater Review: HIGH by Michael Lombardo with Kathleen Turner (N.Y.C. – Broadway)Kathleen Turner plays the tough-talking nun Sister Jamie Connelly, a recovering alcoholic who now works at a Catholic rehab clinic run by Father Michael Depapp. Convinced by the good Father to take on a recalcitrant young drug addict named Cody, she finds herself unable to meet the level of forgiveness and acceptance needed in her work with the boy, who turns out to be the Father’s nephew. Scenes with Father Deppap and Cody are interspersed with a series of monologues in which Sister Connelly gradually reveals her culpability in her saintly sister’s death, which led to ostracism from her family and alcoholism.

Theater Review: HIGH by Michael Lombardo with Kathleen Turner (N.Y.C. – Broadway)The predictability of the plot is not helped by over-the-top direction by Rob Ruggiero. Evan Jonigkeit, who plays Cody, is skinny, scabby and not very believable as a threat to Turner (who must be at least three inches taller and twenty pounds heavier). Nevertheless, despite the swagger in her speech, she literally jumps when he approaches her menacingly, rather than swatting him down like a particularly jittery fly. In a later scene, when he strips down to nothing and threatens her with nothing but his nudity, she cowers in fear before finally rising up and knocking him down. With dialogue indicating that the Sister is indeed capable of beating little Cody up, it seems that Ruggiero must have directed Turner to evince some womanly fright. Not that the dialogue is so fantastic either, peppered as it is with eyeball-rolling self-righteous pronouncements. “God frowns on sarcasm,” admonishes Sister Connelly. Theater Review: HIGH by Michael Lombardo with Kathleen Turner (N.Y.C. – Broadway)“I think it’s time he deserved a break,” states Father Depapp, the mild-mannered middle-class cardboard saint in a cardigan who somehow has a sister who is a prostitute and a junkie.

The playwright is a recovering meth addict who has embraced religion and he obviously can only see the subject from one very limited angle.  Full of tortured confessions of guilt and shame, High offers no revelations in language or a visceral understanding of addictive behavior that would truly elevate it above the mundane.

victorialinchong @ stageandcinema.com

photos by Joan Marcus

High
closed on April 24

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