Broadway Review Roundup: HIGH!
Two-time Golden Globe® winner, Academy Award® & Tony Award® nominee Kathleen Turner returns to Broadway this spring as "Sister Jamison Connelly" in HIGH, a new play written by Matthew Lombardo and directed by Rob Ruggiero. Previews begin on Broadway on March 25 and the official opening is tonight, April 19th, 2011.
HIGH also features Tony Award® nominee Stephen Kunken (Enron) as "Father Michael Delpapp" and Evan Jonigkeit making his Broadway debut as "Cody Randall".
HIGH explores the universal themes of truth, forgiveness, redemption and human fallibility. When Sister Jamison Connelly (Turner) agrees to sponsor a 19 year-old drug user in an effort to help him combat his addiction, her own faith is ultimately tested. Struggling between the knowledge she possesses as a rehabilitation counselor and a woman of religious conviction, she begins to question her belief in miracles and whether people can find the courage to change. Did the show live up to high expectations? Find out now!
Charles Ishwerwood, The New York Times: "High," directed by Rob Ruggiero, isn't a particularly subtle or deep drama, despite some fancy narration... But it does afford Ms. Turner's fans a choice opportunity to bask in her undeniable star wattage. Her performance as the tough but troubled Sister Jamie is funny, consistently entertaining and at times satisfyingly hammy.
Marilyn Stasio, Variety: For a while, the generational and cultural clash between this self-destructive throwaway child and the big-hearted nun are genuinely engaging. But while Sister Jamison is a colorful character, she's too limited in dimension to make serious demands on Turner. The other two characters are even more insubstantial...Even against that big night sky, a star needs some incentive to shine.
Mark Kennedy, Associated Press: The play is helped by two stunning performances - by Turner, who pretty much never leaves the stage, and Evan Jonigkeit, making his Broadway debut as the addict Cody. Watching these two angry, broken, world-weary animals circle each other is an uncomfortable pleasure...[Turner] is the play's fairy godmother and soul.
Terry Teachout, The Wall Street Journal: Was Kathleen Turner ever an actor? Maybe, but she's not one anymore. All she does nowadays is waddle onstage and hawk the self-parody that long ago became her stock in trade..."High" is playing next door to Stephen Adly Guirgis's "The Motherf**ker With the Hat," a comedy about addiction that is as bluntly funny and crisply written as "High" is false and manipulative. If you're looking for a good time, be sure to pick the door on the right.
Howard Shapiro, The Philadelphia Inquirer: The role demands everything he can give (and includes a defiant scene of onstage nudity), and there's no other way to say it - Jonigkeit is an intense theatrical force...High suggests no easy or comforting answers, which makes it a bold offering for Broadway. Its characters may suffer, but the searing play suffers from nothing - and includes a cast whose work is as indelible as High itself.
Scott Brown, New York Magazine: As the show's bathos emissions rise and rise to thyroid-killing levels...[the show] would be in a church basement or the sanctuary of some some mega-tabernacle. Which is where High, minus a few dozen of Turner's f-bombs and all references to sodomy, might be heading soon, too, and maybe where it was meant to be all along.
David Rooney, The Hollywood Reporter: Turner's trenchant performance, and that of gifted newcomer Evan Jonigkeit, elevate Matthew Lombardo's three-character drama, High, above the level of its tritely sensational movie-of-the-week plotting and boilerplate construction...Turner exposes the character's deep well of compassion and the festering wounds of her self-reproach. Too bad the writing isn't sufficiently nuanced to make her calvary more affecting.
Joe Dziemianowicz, NY Daily News: Played by Kathleen Turner, Sister Jamison is a recovering alcoholic who curses like a sailor and bows to no one - sometimes not even God. Her full portrait slowly comes into focus as the action unfolds in director Rob Ruggiero's bare-bones staging.
Elisabeth Vincentelli, NY Post: Indeed, "High" has twists and revelations, but no suspense. Nobody will bat an eye upon learning about Sister Jamie's stormy past, or the reasons Father Michael is so invested in Cody's well-being. And when someone eventually makes a direct appeal to God, you think, "What took so long?" Indeed, everything's foreshadowed with clumsy insistence. While the play clearly hits close to home for Lombardo -- who's been candid about his own faith and past drug problem -- its purple prose and potboiler flourishes could easily have come from a 1960s "social issues" flick.
Matt Windman, amNY: It's too bad Kathleen Turner never got a chance to play Sister Aloysius in "Doubt." It might have spared her the embarrassment of now playing a nun in Matthew Lombardo's disappointing psychological melodrama "High"...Jonigkeit overplays his role physically - especially the twitching and shaking - to the point of absolute ridiculousness. Meanwhile, Kunken, whose character is ill-defined, seems lost amid all the sparring.
Michael Musto, The Village Voice: The result comes off overwrought and far from a miracle. It doesn't help that this is the cheapest looking set in Broadway history (including the two folding chairs of A Steady Rain) and that the kid is made to strip and mock-hump Turner in a bit that redefines gratuitous for all time...Alas, for the most part, High gave me a crisis of my own. It made me lose faith in Broadway.
Linda Winer, Newsday: 'We all suffer from some form of addiction," says Father Michael to Sister Jamison, urging her to continue the counseling of a 19-year-old suicidal gay hustler and meth-head named Cody. Sister Jamison, played by Kathleen Turner, doesn't appear to nod off at the banality of that proclamation or the many other snoozers in Matthew Lombardo's simplistic sin-and-redemption psychodrama, "High."
Robert Feldberg, NorthJersey.com: But the flowering of faith isn't evident in the play. And there's certainly no sense of a miracle in the downbeat "High."
Jonathan Mandell, The Faster Times: Kathleen Turner gives us a no-nonsense performance that is the reason to see this downer of a play meant to give us the gritty truth about addiction, but that feels too much like a recipe: Start with a base of "Equus," sprinkle with a little "Agnes of God," stir in some R-rated spice and unpalatable grit, and serve in a bowl of Lifetime movie, heaped high.