Léna is also a Regional Manager for Writopia Lab whose mission is to foster joy, literacy, and critical thinking in kids and teens from all backgrounds through creative writing.

"Well, the question is, what do you want to believe? Do you want to live in a world where things are possible, or in one where they aren't?" Cin, Edges.

Saturday, April 16, 2011

Gettin' High

I had the chance to see High the other night - a Broadway play with Kathleen Turner (love her) about "addiction and redemption" - two of my favorite subjects. My BFF had scored us free tickets for a preview performance (the show opens on Tuesday) through a contact at work. (She is an awesome psychotherapist, if you will allow me to brag!)

Our seats were amazing - second row center, and I left the theater completely disturbed. Which is not a bad thing. I esteem work and art that encourages an inner dialogue with self. I had "wanted" a different outcome to the story, a different ending - so it gave me a lot to think about, as someone who believes in the power of prayer and faith (not just inside of organized religion).

And I want you to see it, so I won't "spoil" anything for you by telling the story. Well, the whole story. (I have to tell a little bit, don't I?) To just say that the performances were "gripping" or "powerful" wouldn't do it justice.

Turner plays Sister Jamison, "a foul-mouthed alcoholic nun" who lives and works in a Catholic rehabilitation center. The play opens with Sister Jamison telling the audience a vignette from her childhood - she reads a story to her little sister every night about the stars, because someday, her sister says, she wants to be HIGH, to go and be "up there".

Turner had me right there, as I truly believe that we are all spirit seekers of one form or another. We all want to be High up in the stars, transcending the human experience.

The play, centered around three characters is peppered with Sister Jamison breaking the fourth wall with these monologues, revealing more about her childhood and her relationship with her sister, her own need for redemption.

Sister Jamison's "job" is to run groups for recovering alcoholics like herself. Her boss,  "Father Michael" played deftly by Stephen Kunken, asks her to take on an seemingly impossible case - a-damaged-beyond-repair 19 year old drug meth addict and prostitute named Cody. Sister Jamison knows first hand that  recovery is for those who want it, and are willing to work for it. Cody is not an addict pre-disposed to want to get better. He needs to be in a lock down rehab for six months, if there is to be any hope.

But Father Michael challenges her to think outside the box, that "miracles" are up to God, and come in different forms, that it is not up to us to decide who can recover and who can't.

Sister Jamison doesn't want to get emotionally involved with this kid. Yet she does, which of course brings up her own demons.

Evan Jonigkeit as Cody broke my heart. Sitting so close to the stage, his pain and trauma were absolutely convincing. The word "brutal" kept floating through my mind and I couldn't help but think of the uncle I have lost to alcoholism and the friends I've lost to addiction. Are they "high" up with God now? What do I really believe?

Sister Jamison tries to introduce Cody to some kind of faith, and teaches him the rosary.

"What has God ever done for me?"

"God hasn't done this to you, people have," Sister Jamison says.

Yes, people have. But recovery can only happen when a person can say: "yes people have done this to me, but I can make different choices now. I can take responsibility for my part in the past and in my present and future actions."

This is impossible for Cody. So what do you think happens? Why was I such a wreck afterward?

I guess I saw all of the "addiction" and none of the "redemption". More's the pity.

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  1. Wow. I'm not sure I could handle all that addiction without some redemption. Redemption is essential. So thankful for mine.

  2. Thank you Alison - I'm still mulling over the whole thing. Theater is so incredibly powerful! It was supposed to be redemptive, I think, but I couldn't see it. Death = redemption? That disturbs me. I see the Christian themes, but, I didn't leave feeling hopeful for the human condition.

  3. This is my first encounter with this play, so I'm going solely on what you wrote.

    But do you think the playwright is using Brecht's "distancing effect"? Where we, the audience, are denied the cathartic experience (i.e. redemption) in an effort to force us to seek it in the real world? (Breaking the 4th wall is a core technique used in distancing.)

    I've been studying Brecht's theory on this, so it may just be me seeing what's top of mind. (I'm experimenting with it in my writing.) But I had to ask.

    Holy wow, this sounds like a powerful play!

  4. I like the fact that not closing the story with redemptive resolve was disturbing for you, I can relate. Sometimes my expectation get in the way of some art that is left hanging. For instance when songs are written about pain and then end with a complete desolate feel I am left with nothing to cling to. It goes to show you that everyone is looking for Hope, Our souls long for it, we are subconsciously looking for it everywhere. We live in a fallen world, full of sin and pain so why would we want anything else?
    I found you via Randy Elrod on twitter. I am a big fan of your grandmother and now it is so much fun to find you!

  5. Keith - thank you so much for reminding me of Brecht! Yes, this is entirely possible, and I will take another look thru Brechtian eyes. Such a helpful comment! :-)

    And Cyle - I'm so glad that you stopped by to say hello? How do you say your name? Can you spell it out for me phonetically? I so appreciate you reaching out with your comments!

  6. The play is closing today, after 3 weeks of previews, and 5 nights of "officiousness". Don't know what that means exactly . . .

  7. This is my first time that I encounter any play. As after the hectic work of online essay writers usa I hardly get time to enjoy such plays. However, it’s a good experience of mine to have such plays. I like the theme of the play as well. I will surely wait for your future plays also as I enjoyed it a lot.

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