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‘HIGH’ expectations

December 6, 2011
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Published in Metro

There are three characters in “High”: a priest, a nun, and a drug addict. It sounds like the beginning of a joke, but the play’s plot is actually very serious.

“It’s about faith and addiction,” says director Rob Ruggiero, a Milford, Mass. native. “The play deals with a religious faith, but also a belief in a higher power — the faith in yourself to change.”

The show takes place in a Catholic rehab center, where a former alcoholic nun (played by diva Kathleen Turner) agrees to sponsor a 19-year-old crystal meth addict. Though it’s not strictly autobiographical, the production is based on the experiences of its playwright, Matthew Lombardo, a recovered meth user.

“We’ve always been concerned with honoring Matthew’s journey,” Ruggiero says. “To make sure the light that we represent on stage is truthful and not theatricalized and respectful of that addiction community.”

Needless to say, the piece does not glamorize substance abuse.

“It’s very raw at times. This play could serve as a wake-up call for some people, in terms of the destructing nature of drug addiction.” says Ruggiero.

There is a bit of comedic relief in the story, however, by way of unlikely friendships between the two clergy and their teenage charge.

And what of Turner? Her film credits are numerous and acclaimed, but the husky-voiced actor’s roots are on the stage.

“There are a lot of actors who come to the theater to explore, but Kathleen is the real deal,” says Ruggiero. “She’s as candid as you would imagine, but she’s always respectful.”

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