“HIGH:”  A WORLD PREMIERE DRAMA STARRING KATHLEEN TURNER

BONNIE GOLDBERG

If you’re “high,” it can refer to having a lofty position in business or politics.  It can also suggest a euphoria of feelings, a spiritual elevation in mood and attitude.  In modern parlance, it might even mean the artificially induced state from street drugs that addicts experience.  If you’re a person of the cloth, a member of the clergy, it can even express a closeness to God.

In Matthew Lombardo’s world premiere drama “High,” many of these explanations apply as presented by TheaterWorks of Hartford until Sunday, August 22.  Lombardo is no stranger to the drug scene, having succumbed to an addiction to crystal methamphetamine that temporarily stole his life, his family, and his future from him.  Now that he is three years clean and sober, he is calling upon his harrowing experiences to give color and authenticity to the trauma of teenager Cody Randall whose drug problems almost land him at prison’s door.

Evan Jonigkeit is disturbingly convincing as the young man who is flirting with personal danger, with death a constant companion, who is resistant to treatment or help.  Father Michael Delpapp, played by a sympathetic Michael Berresse, reaches out to get Cody counseling, but he has ulterior motives for his concern.  Cody’s intense problems land him at the door of Sister Jamison Connelly, a social worker reluctant and resistant to take on his major substance abuse care.  When Father Delpapp’s authority prevails, the good Sister has no choice but to acquiesce.

Kathleen Turner is outstanding as the wisecracking woman of the cloth, whose language is sprinkled with profanity and whose past includes addictions and secrets of her own.  This trio of talented actors gives a powerful and riveting performance under the taunt direction of Rob Ruggiero. For tickets ($49-64), call TheaterWorks, 233 Pearl Street, Hartford at 860-527-7838 or go online to www.theaterworkshartford.org.

Performances are Tuesday, Wednesday, and Thursday at 7:30 p.m., Friday and Saturday at 8 p.m., with matinees weekends at 2:30 p.m.

Faith is tested and forgiveness and redemption are possible as playwright Matthew Lombardo translates his own personal demons into a revealing and brutal vulnerability for the dramatic stage.

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