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A CurtainUp Connecticut Review
Kathleen Turner stars as Sister Jamison Connelly. She counsels addict Cody Randall (Evan Jonigkeit) after he has entered a 28-day program at a Catholic rehabilitation center after surviving a possible suicide attempt in a hotel room where he was found with the dead body of a young boy. Sister's job is to explore the relationship between Cody and the dead boy, who he might have murdered, and to keep him off drugs.
Sister is initially reluctant to take on the case as she feels that Cody's situation is too complex for her, and asks Father Michael Depapp (Michael Beresse) to reassign him. But Father Michael is adamant, convinced that Sister's own past drug addiction will help her find a way to reach the youth.
The therapy sessions played out against David Gallo's simple, stark set are intense. Director Rob Ruggiero helms Jonigkeit in a masterful performance that mainstreams the gut-wrenching, realistic picture of drug addiction into the souls of the audience. The bruised, scarred and desperate kid fidgets and gnaws at the pull string of his hoodie while trying to stay off the hard stuff, but life seems to work against his and Sister's best efforts.
As a relationship between counselor and patient develops and the two interact, Turner brings out a more caring side to the otherwise abrasive and seemingly uncaring nun. In between these encounters, she steps out and addresses the audience with commentary and background. This works well, except for the too harsh music played between scene changes.
The play is at its most depressing when Sister interacts with Father Michael. What's more, their conversations sound contrived and Turner goes melodramatic in the long sections of dialogue where she's trying to reason with the priest who would have been more effective as a character emerging through dialogue in the therapy sessions.
Beresse's Father is rather unpleasant, wooden in emotion, trite in his religious advice and consistently makes poor choices. His constant justification for his actions through interaction with Sister detracts from the play's strong suite, the therapy sessions with Cody. The Nun-Father scenes also telegraphs key information about the priest's relationship with the boy and what really happened at the hotel. When Cody finds out what Father Michael, and through him, the audience, already knows, the revelation fails to bring the play to a satisfactory s ending.
Lombardo's wit and humor are laced throughout the script, especially Sister's foul-mouthed, blunt observations which make for a welcome diversion — unfortunately not enough so to overcome the depressing atmosphere that surrounds these rather unpleasant characters dealing with very depressing situations. Consequently this IS a downer, but it IS realistic. As Lombardo knows, and shares in a program note, there really isn't a "high" to drug addiction.
Other plays by Lombardi: Tea at 5 and Looped.