Review by Tulis McCall
(21 Apr 2010)
Kathleen Turner starts of well as Sister Jamie – the nun with a past. Turner, as we all know, can wise crack with the best of them. And she is a dame to whom swearing comes naturally – my kind of gal. She has fury by the bucket load and hot and cold running contempt: all of which are refreshing and welcome in a female character. As a matter of fact I would go so far as to say that, were I in need of a nun, Turner would be my chosen holy person.
Sister Jamie is a counselor for recovering addicts, and she normally takes on all comers. The new one, however, she does not want because he is a little out of the box. Not your ordinary repentant user who is seeking salvation along with sobriety. Cody Randall (Evan Jonigkeit) will use whatever he can get his hands on, including the 14 year old boy who died next to him in a motel. The second reason Jamie doesn’t want this is that Father Michael Delpapp (Stephen Kunken) is not asking. He is telling. And Sister Jamie does not like to be told nothin’ – even from God.
There follows the obligatory scene where Cody is set straight about the woman with whom he is dealing. Sister Jamie will not coddle. She will not sympathize. She will not excuse. Instead she will dig deep and do it without Novocain.
Dealing with Cody soon brings up Sister Jamie’s own fears and doubts about how she was “rescued” - and all that that implies. Cody’s reckless path is abhorrent and familiar, and his effect on both Delpapp and Sister Jamie is acute.
The script doesn’t live up to the story, sadly, and neither does most of the acting. While Turner shines in the brittle light, she seems lost in the morass of nuances she is asked to convey. Sympathy, empathy, and compassion – these do not come easy to Sister Jamie, and neither do they to Turner. Kinken’s role is dry as toast and he does little to add color to it. Jonigkeit has a recklessness about him as a performer that is unnerving, but he too gets stuck in that box for most of the play. Each of these actors is limited by what they are allowed to say and how they can say it. This could have been a fascinating story if the author dug as deep into the characters as he was asking them to do for themselves.
Instead we get caricatures and generalities, and all under the umbrella of the Catholic Church. I am not a religious person, but having been raised Catholic there was enough familiar to me that made me wonder why the Church was even mentioned? None of the facts were more than warmed over platitudes. So why cover all this interaction with religion? Why not make them ordinary people instead of clergy vs. the fallen? It only served to clog up the works. And it made me think that were this a show about Muslims, people would be hanging from the rafters in protest. I suppose it’s a case of “Better , the dogma, like the devil, you know than the dogma you don’t.”
And in the end it is the dogma, not the drama, that is still standing when the bell rings. The people have faded away along with the story.
"Her (Turner's) performance as the tough but troubled Sister Jamie is funny, consistently entertaining and at times satisfyingly hammy. "
Charles Isherwood for NY Times
"A provocative but not always believable play."
Joe Dziemianowicz for NY Daily News
"Has twists and revelations, but no suspense."
Elisabeth Vincentelli for New York Post
"Under Rob Ruggiero’s overwrought direction, 'High' plays more like an early workshop than a polished Broadway production."
Jeremy Gerald for Bloomberg
"Well-intentioned but poorly written script."
Erik Haagensen for Back Stage
"The fun is watching Turner, ..., deliver devastating putdowns."
Robert Feldberg for The Record
"The story’s succession of gradually revealed personal secrets grows increasingly wearisome."
Michael Sommers for Newsroom Jersey
"It’s more convincing as an actor’s vehicle than as a play, an imbalance that Rob Ruggiero’s pedestrian, minimally designed production fails to correct."
David Rooney for The Hollywood Reporter
"Turner does her best to bring warmth and intelligence to the brass-knuckled nun, but this troubled saint remains a flimsy character in a hollow play. "
Steven Suskin for Variety
External links to full reviews from popular press...