Kathleen Turner has opened her national tour of HIGH at Boston’s Cutler Majestic Theatre (December 6-11)! Just in time for the holidays, HIGH is your basic homosexual, drug-dealing prostitute meets foul-mouthed, recovering alcoholic nun story. Evan Jonigkeit plays 19 year old Cody Randall– dealer/ addict– who likes to get high, and Turner is the hard-core Sister Jamison Connelly who wants to take him higher.
Before the end of Act 1, he’s spilled his guts, shoots up, strips down, and attempts to assault her. She kicks his ass, gets him a blanket, and teaches him the rosary. It’s Boys Town on crack. It’s all about redemption, and change, and faith, and the horrors of reality– and this show doesn’t skimp on the horrors. Before the end of the night we will have rubbed up against murder, rape, suicide, and pedophilia.
The performances are fine; Kathleen Turner’s in particular grows as the evening wears you out. She’s especially compelling at her most earnest, when she’s teaching the lost young man to pray, for example. That was unexpectedly moving. It’s her sanctimonious hard-bitten persona that made me cringe. And just about every moment is telegraphed; we’ve seen it all before and this feels somehow gratuitous. Why is he fully naked on stage? Why is there so much misery? Part interior monologue, part sermon, part therapy– none of the dialogue is wise enough, eloquent enough, or profound enough to redeem the gruesome details.
I don’t like this play by Matthew Lombardo. I don’t know why Kathleen Turner feels she must put herself through this exploration night after night– atonement for what I wonder. By the end I was hoping for something transformative, some bit of insight to make it worth what we’d all just been put through. But the playwright came up short, and I came out low–not high.