Let me start off by saying that it was a real trip seeing Kathleen Turner in person and on stage.
She's got somethin' - moxie? joie de vive? charisma? - that makes you want to watch her.
Maybe its her husky voice, or her star presence, maybe it's a combo of all of the above, but whatever it is, it works, so it's odd that a woman of her magnetism would choose HIGH as the play to strut her stuff.
Cast as a sarcastic, let's-get-real Nun, Turner is enlisted by her boss, Father Michael (Tim Altmeyer), to be the social worker to 18 year-old, drug-addicted, gay prostitute-turned-potential-pimp, Cody Randall (Evan Jonigkeit). As we soon learn, Randall's life has been a series of severe traumas and he is so mired in his quest to subdue his pain that his unpredictable addict behaviour soon becomes problematic for everyone. In her attempt to help Cody, Turner's character has to face her own struggles with sobriety and her own past pain she's tried to subdue. Crisis and tragedy ensue and, naturally, no one ends up where they thought they would.
Fortunately, I've never had to deal with an addiction, either my own or someone else's, so I can't speak with any authority on how realistic the behaviour is in HIGH, but I can't shake the feeling that playwright, Matthew Lombardo, has perhaps seen one too many episodes of "Intervention."
The melodrama bordered on cliché-territory and not in a way that worked.
Most scenes in the play were intersected by monologues Turner delivered to the audience, a device I can only guess that served to let the audience know her inner demons and feel more connected with her character. I hated them.
Turner was at her best when she was bantering with the other actors, her timing and her wit giving life to a usually predictable scene. She couldn't do that in the heavy-handed monologues; she was bogged down with the script and in metaphors that didn't really measure up.
If I sound frustrated, it's because I am. I don't know what HIGH was trying to say; I am still trying to bridge the ideas of religious faith, with addiction, with simple human connection, with death and with being high in the sky (an idea that bookends he play) and why on earth a woman as formidable as Kathleen Turner would read this script and agree to do the play.
I encourage you to see the play yourself and if you can fill me in, please do.
HIGH is playing now until May 13 (4 shows left!) at the Royal Alexandra Theatre (260 King St. W.)
For tix call: 416-872-1212 or click here.