Like a smoky siren, Kathleen Turner's voice will make you drop whatever you are doing -- even if the phone call comes three hours early. After all, this is the voice of Matty Walker, Joan Wilder, and Jessica Rabbit. There's no way I wasn't going to grab a notebook for this chat.
Turner is in town this week at the Pantages Theatre for High, a touring production of a short-lived Broadway drama that Turner starred in last season. In the show, she plays Sister Jamison Connelly. The nun has plenty of baggage, which comes out when she is asked to help a 19-year-old drug addict, Cody Randall.
Turner, who has her own past substance abuse issues, worked with playwright Michael Lombardo and director Rob Ruggiero to first bring the piece to the stage. This included successful stops in Hartford, Cincinnati, and St. Louis before making its New York bow. The show only lasted for a handful of performances, but Turner made enough of an impact to earn a Drama League nomination for her turn in the play.
"[The tour] has gone amazingly well. The reception we've received has been tremendous," says Turner from her New York home, where she returned after completing a run of the play in San Francisco.
While audiences may change from city to city, the reception shows that High has "proven to be quite insightful. We hear from audiences in the talk backs in each city, and I feel really blessed in the connections we make," Turner says.
Lombardo drew on his own experiences with crystal-meth addiction to craft the play, pouring his experiences into Cody, played here -- as on Broadway -- by Evan Jonigkeit. Turner's own bouts with addiction started with her rheumatoid arthritis, which led not only to medication but an issue with alcohol.
"The first thing about my character [in the play] is that she is very strong, but also very flawed," she says.
She has worked with Jonigkeit throughout the play's development and in its incarnations across the country. The tour has allowed the two to further explore their characters and deepen "the real relationship that they have," Turner says.
The three-actor play -- it also features Timothy Altmeyer -- often places the spotlight firmly on Turner, who still relishes the chance to perform in front of audiences, even in the oft-punishing eight times a week touring schedule. "It is really intense. You have to stay in good shape if you want to go out and give it all you have, and then do it all over again," she says.
Turner has plenty of other work in the hopper, including a run in Los Angeles of Red Hot Patriot, a one-woman show about firebrand political commentator Molly Ivins. She also has a new film, The Perfect Family, coming out this spring. In it, Turner plays a woman who strives to become the Catholic Woman of the Year.