Will Be Different
Everything Will Be Different
is a new play by Marc Schultz. It tells the story of a teenage girl named
Charlotte, who--set adrift by the loss of her mother and alienated by
her father's unwillingness to cope--finds refuge in the story of Helen
of Troy, comforted by the idea that beauty and desire can destroy the
world. The press release says the play explores teenage sexuality using
history as a springboard into the unstable eroticism of a daughter grieving
for her mother.
At right: Laura Heisler and Geoffrey Nauffts in a scene
from Everything Will Be Different (photo © David Gochfeld)
Freeman · April 8, 2005
Before I had the pleasure of seeing Everything Will Be Different, a friend
of mine and I amused ourselves over a beer by clicking off a few playwriting
clichés we feared we’d be witnessing. The press release describes the
play as an “exploration of teenage sexuality” so in our cynical way, we
expected lines like “No one understands me.” A scene where the teenage
girl is taken in by an older, more experienced guy. A long awkward scene
where the action stops and we watch characters kiss or engage in sexual
activity. Haughty arguments with a parent. The now completely expected
gay best friend. The list was rather long.
Well... except for the gay best friend, quite a few of these moments,
in some form, are on stage here. The shock of it is that this play is
uniformly smashing: heartbreaking, hilarious, and tragic. Playwright Marc
Schultz and director Daniel Aukin have taken what could well have been
yet another after school special about teenage confusion and extracted
the essential elements, satirized the right moments, taken cliché and
transformed it into a cathartic, intensely personal experience. And they
took my cynicism and used it for skeet shooting.
Schultz’s script tells the story of Charlotte, a 15 or 16 year-old teen,
who, along with her father, lives in the aftermath of her mother’s death.
Four parts, all introduced as Charlotte’s school paper on Helen of Troy,
frame the play. We see her impotency in the face of her father’s bereavement
and derision. We see her desperate desire to be desired. We see her off-color
relationship with the men (and boys) that make up a teen’s life. And we
see her fantasies clashing with the hard realities around her.
Despite the trappings of a traditional play, it’s the “beauty myth” that
is being explored and exposed here. It becomes striking that what we hear
about her mother is rarely anything but how she looked: how beautiful
she was. Charlotte is an awkward girl, with acne, who feels ugly, whose
maturity and sexual confusion are battling each other. Further aggravating
her discomfort is the feeling that she must replace, reach the standard
of, or simply forgive her lost mother. In the narrative, Charlotte isn’t
comparing herself to Helen of Troy, the face that launched a thousand
ships, but to Helen’s daughter Hermione. All these clashing emotions make
Charlotte one of the best on-stage examples of "damage" you’re likely
to find. And this play is an uncompromising gaze at how the obsession
with beauty can turn young women against themselves.
Helping the productions immensely is the first-rate cast. Laura Heisler's
performance as Charlotte demands to be seen. She elevates the broadest
outpouring of pain and the tiniest moment of thought. Knowing that she
is playing far below her age, without a hint of condescension, just makes
it all the more exciting a performance. But she’s supported on all sides
by top-flight work. Geoffrey Nauffts is especially “on” as her guidance
counselor, playing with the repetitions in the writing, pulling the audience
into both his comedic and desperate moments without skipping a beat. Each
member of the cast generously performs, though, from Naomi Aborn’s delivery
as Charlotte's best friend, the deliciously vacuous Heather, doles out
advice; to Jason Jurman’s winning portrayal as the not-so-vulnerable introvert
Franklin; Reynaldo Valentin’s dead-on popular jock; and Christopher McCann’s
casually cruel and emotionally crippled father.
The set and lighting are expert as well, using minimal indications of
changing scenes in a warmly lit stage that puts us in what amounts to
a barren home. It’s used to perfection by director Aukin, who adds just
the right mix of simple imagery. Nothing is static, and the performances
have room to breathe.
Everything Will Be Different takes what could have been My So-Called Life
for library members, and turns it into a succinct and truthful experience.
The writing soars above its genre, and the direction and acting are in
rare form. If a cynic like me could walk out this enthusiastic, I expect
that this gem will convince many others as well. See for yourself.