Rob Ruggiero, who staged the play's engagements at three regional theatres in 2009-10, again directs, this time at the intimate Booth Theatre. Turner (Broadway's Who's Afraid of Virginia Woolf?, Indiscretions, The Graduate and Hollywood's "Body Heat" and "Romancing the Stone") played Sister Jamison Connelly in Hartford, Cincinnati and St. Louis opposite young Philadelphia actor Evan Jonigkeit as Cody, a crystal methamphetamine addict. Tony nominee Stephen Kunken (2010's Enron) is new to the production as Father Michael Delpapp, who brings Jonigkeit's Cody into the faith-based rehabilitation center where the leaders seem to need as much guidance as the addicts.
Ruggiero directed the Broadway production of Lombardo's Looped (about actress Tallulah Bankhead late in her career), plus the regional hit Ella. Lombardo also penned the biographical Off-Broadway play Tea at Five, about a stalled but eager Katharine Hepburn.
For High, the playwright drew on his own experience with meth abuse — although the plot is not his story, he told Playbill.com. "The character of Cody Randall is not based on my own personal history, but the feelings associated with addiction — shame, guilt, worthlessness — those are all things I tapped into to write the character of Cody."
Cody is a young hustler who has a violent streak and a brush with crime. Sister Jamie has her own tragedy-laced back story. Father Michael is the enabler of the trio.
Here's how High is characterized: "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 (Jonigkeit) 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." Two-time Golden Globe winner and Academy Award and Tony nominee Turner told Playbill.com, "Sister Jamie comes from a very compromised, a very troubled, background. She had a tremendous personal tragedy, which launched her…into alcoholism, into homelessness, into a complete loss of belief and faith. …She was brought up in the Catholic religion and she comes back to it and finds her recovery, I think, through the exercising of her faith and helping other people with addiction."
She added, "It's been a great exploration, a great journey. …Every city we went to, we found more and more in terms of what we wanted to say, what we felt needed to be said, how to do it."
Lombardo explained, "I had Catholic schooling for 12 years. One of the Sisters, Sister Maureen Reardon, who was the dean of our school, was very much like Sister Jamison Connelly, so I kind of tapped into her a little bit. I combined her with the no-nonsense of my own sponsor, and the compassion of my mother. I threw these three people in a blender together and came out with Sister Jamison Connelly."
High contains mature themes, strong language and nudity. It serves up a buffet of lurid plot points including child rape, child murder, prostitution (heterosexual and homosexual), alcoholism, homelessness and the abuse of a long list of drugs. There's even an on-stage sexual assault and nudity. "A parent or guardian will be required to accompany audience members under 14."
The design team includes Tony Award winners David Gallo (sets) and Jess Goldstein (costumes) as well as John Lasiter (lights) and Vincent Olivieri (sound and original compositions).
High is produced on Broadway by Leonard Soloway, Chase Mishkin, Terry Schnuck, Ann Cady Scott, Timothy J. Hampton, James & Catherine Berges, Craig Schnuck, Barbara & Buddy Freitag, Lauren Class Schneider, David Mirvish, Lawrence J. Moss, The Shubert Organization and The Repertory Theatre of St. Louis.
Tickets are available online at Telecharge.com or by phone at (212) 239-6200 or at the Booth Theatre at 222 W. 45th St.
Ticket prices range from $61.50-$111.50 with a special preview price of $61.50-$91.50 for performances March 25-April 18.
Tickets at $26.50 each are reserved for the first row for all performances, for audience members ages 17-21. Interested ticket buyers can purchase these seats at the Booth Theatre box office only, the day of the performance. Limit of two tickets per person.
High's performance schedule is Tuesday-Saturday evenings at 8 PM, Wednesday and Saturday matinees at 2 PM & Sunday matinee at 3 PM.
View highlights from the show: