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Adagio Teas
   Features  >  NY Theater Reviews

 
HIGH
at the Booth

A NEW LOW
By ROBERT CASHILL

  Evan Jonigkeit and Kathleen Turner

Good Friday was perhaps not the best night to see High, where a potty-mouthed nun counsels a drug-addicted teen hustler who may have killed the younger boy he was running with. But circumstances forced my hand, as the play, a quick casualty in the end-of-season rush, will die on Easter, never to be resurrected on Broadway. No need to say a prayer over it, however, for this is an excruciatingly bad show that I will now attempt to exorcise.
 
High explores the universal themes of truth, forgiveness, redemption and human fallibility,” reads its website, which hastens to add, in block letters, “ADULT CONTENT AND FULL MALE NUDITY.” That’s it in a nutshell—a well-intentioned potboiler, dedicated to playwright Matthew Lombardo’s sponsor, that throws in a few exploitative hooks to keep us awake through all the shopworn inspirational stuff. Lombardo’s bio-plays about stars (like last season’s short-lived Looped, with Valerie Harper as Tallulah Bankhead) suggest a lot of thumbing through old encyclopedia entries; for this more ambitious work he clearly read, or at least skimmed, religious/psychiatric/rehab-themed plays running the gamut from Equus to Agnes of God. What he never found was a good idea of his own.
 
Her once-husky voice gone thick and clotted, Kathleen Turner camps it up as Sister Jamison, a cursing nun stuck tending to the surly and much-troubled Cody (Evan Jonigkeit, in a flashy, shallow Broadway debut) at the behest of his shamelessly enabling uncle, Father Michael (the unfortunate Stephen Kunken, who at least escaped last spring’s fast flop Enron with a Tony nomination). Sister Jamison spends half the show strong-arming Cody into confessing his still-multiplying sins, which come to include an attempted rape (hence the attention-getting, embarrassing nudity) and the other half standing in front of a cheesy star curtain and oversharing with the audience about her dead sister, her addictions and her trove of accumulated wisdom, like, “That’s the thing about a mother’s love for her son; it’s either too much, or not enough.” (I hope I didn’t spoil that one for you.) “You don’t seem like a standard nun,” muses Cody at one point. Ain’t that the truth. She is, rather, Lombardo’s cliché-wracked version of what a person of faith might be if that person exhibited minimal faith and maximum quirks, and Turner plays her as falsely as written.
 
If only there were some truly adult content in High, which has been gracelessly directed by Rob Ruggiero. What there is is a show that plumbs new depths in Broadway drama.

 


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