Saturday, April 16, 2011


A special light snaps on before a backdrop of stars and there stands Kathleen Turner and the audience gives her due applause. I love Kathleen Turner for being one of those movie stars that regularly returns to Broadway and now Matthew Lombardo has written a great play and a great role for her. She is aged, grizzled, throaty––like an elderly Lauren Bacall. Her deep smoky voice fills the house, but she slurs a bit and seems to take in deep breaths of air to get through slices of her many speeches. Yet, a few minutes in, especially when she begins to engage with Stephen Kunken as Father Michael and Evan Jonigkeit as teenager Cody, she becomes transcendent. Directed by Rob Ruggiero, this small play quickly becomes riveting. The story is about Sister Jamison Connelly (Turner) who is given the task of trying to rehabilitate the drug addicted nephew of Father Michael. After a first trying consultation, Sister Jamison Connelly insists that she won’t be able to handle such a severe case––that the boy should be turned over to the state. Father Michael, feeling guilty about his distant relationship with his now diseased sister, feels he must protect and help Cody and insists that Sister Jamison Connelly try to work with the teen. What follows is a series of both comical and harrowing episodes between the nun and the boy. Faith is a strong theme in the play and each character has their own version of God’s place in their lives––each prays for the best outcome and it is left open as to whether the ending represents what was best for the boy or simply what was inevitable. This is a serious and tragic story, though the author finds numerous ways of inserting humor and Ms. Turner is particularly adept at landing a punch line. A number of stars of a certain age could succeed in this great role of Sister Jamison Connelly, but right now it is Kathleen Turner and she triumphs. Holding his own to this monster performance is Evan Jonigkeit who is bound to be honored with a Tony nomination, for he can match Ms. Turner round for round. Kunken is likable, but somehow insignificant by comparison and I didn’t believe he believed what he had to say in his important speeches. He needed to have the voice of conviction that perhaps this actor simply isn’t able to bring to the role. That is a small missed step in an otherwise terrific production.