Thursday, May 10, 2012

Review: (Toronto) High

Kathleen Turner (photo credit: Lanny Nagler)

A solo which is not
Kathleen Turner fills her vehicle
by Jasmine Chen

High, which opened at the Royal Alexandra Theatre last night, is the story of a tough talking recovering alcoholic nun, Sister Jamison Connelly who attempts to rehabilitate a 19 year old drug addict, Cody Randall. Oscar and Tony nominee Kathleen Turner is the headliner in this coming clean tale of redemption and faith. Turner, who battled against alcohol addiction herself, brings her own experience to the playing of Sister Connelly. She anchors an otherwise ungrounded play. Turner, with her unmistakable voice, commands the stage and brilliantly delivers the dry sarcasm Sister Connelly uses to get through to Cody. She is not your typical nun. She curses, plays tough love, and continually struggles with her own demons.
The dialogue is clunky, overly explanatory, and the characters seem to reach decisions with very little gravity.

What is interesting is that this play was borne out of playwright Matthew Lombardo’s personal experiences of addiction, yet the play seems hardly believable. The dialogue is clunky, overly explanatory, and the characters seem to reach decisions with very little gravity. Cody is played by Evan Jonigkeit and although there is much talk about his tortured past, we see very little dimension to his character. Likewise, the role of Father Michael DelPapp played by Tim Altmeyer comes across as mostly functional in instructing the audience and Sister Connelly about Cody’s history. There is a lot of debate between Father Michael and Sister Connelly about how they should help Cody, which in turn reveals the personal hang-ups each of them has. Interspersed between the scenes are monologues which Turner delivers directly to the audience. While the monologues themselves fail to elevate the play, Kathleen Turner makes the most of them. 
The set, designed by David Gallo is elegant in its minimalism; a backdrop of the starry sky brings forth the play’s greater theme of faith. 
Altogether, High is a great vehicle for Kathleen Turner. The play itself lacks subtlety and can sometimes feel like an anti-drug after-school special. Kathleen Turner is the reason to see this show, her bravado and vulnerability is wonderful to watch. 

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