Sunday, October 24, 2010

"High" by Matthew Lombardo

My wife Beth and I saw a very powerful new play, "High" by Matthew Lombardo. The play starred Kathleen Turner, Michael Berresse and Evan Jonigkeit and was performed at the Repertory Theatre of St. Louis. The play concerns a tough nun/drug counselor (played by Turner), a young addict, and a priest who is the counselor's supervisor (and seems to have some connection to the young man, which we don't learn until Act 2). This New York Times review was written following a Connecticut performance.

Beth and I have talked about this play a lot. The young man had no chance in life: born of a prostitute mother, raped by one of her clients, a user of numerous drugs, and found with a dead 14 year old boy. The nun has a harrowing history, too. In fact, the reviewer above is concerned that the play crosses the line from the dramatic to the lurid.

I hate to give away many details about the play, which is well worth seeing and thinking about. But toward the end one of the characters concludes about this whole situation, "God f****d up." The death of a character seems to confirm that sentiment. I'd like to see the play again to see if that sentiment becomes as much the "moral" of the story as I remember.

But does God f*** up when circumstances go out of control? It's a perennial question, if not always put so startlingly. Why didn't God prevent a natural disaster (name any)? Why didn't God prevent the Holocaust, or 9/11, or the Inquisition, or the premature death of someone you love? These are difficult questions.

Although I don't entirely agree with the famous saying, "God has no hands but our hands," there is some truth to it. I also think God's chief way of un-f***ing-up the world is the love and active concern we show for one another.

That's easy to say, but difficult to do sometimes. The counselor in the play was too overwhelmed by events (and a personal tragedy) to be there definitively for another character. On the other hand, the counselor was essentially (and cruelly, I think) left alone to handle the situation. (The priest in the play was perhaps too much the stereotypical authoritarian church bureaucrat.)

Compare that aloneness to stories wherein people actually do help addicts and others. As a for instance, I found this article stories while working on a curriculum project: When you quote that saying, "God has no hands but our hands," be sure you stress the plural pronoun. If God has no hands but my hands (without you and many others to help me), then God's not going to get much done. Working together, we might be able to change damaged lives!


  1. hello, the theater function seems very interesting and I would like to see it, the unique problem is that I am in Europe… you know if it is possible to find the text to buy it and to be able to read it? thank you very much

  2. Hello! I'll watch to see when the play is published! Thanks! ps