Seeking solace from grief, a teen
emulates Helen of Troy
by Charlotte Stoudt
April 19th, 2005 4:26 PM
(right) Fast times: Jurman and Heisler
photo: David Gochfeld
know that girl Charlotte? Her mom, like, died, and it's so tragic, 'cause
she was really really pretty. Anyway at first Charlotte freaked out, but
now she's decided she won't ever be hurt again if she just makes everyone
love her and think she's totally hot. Her idol is Helen of Troy—you know,
that Greek chick who was so beautiful people went to war over her and
who, like, thrived on the carnage she caused.
In Everything Will Be Different, Mark Schultz's raw, R-rated after-school
special now at Soho Rep, such skewed teenage logic leads the play's heroine
to some desperately funny, and just plain desperate, dead ends. Longing
for (and competing with) her forever beautiful mom, 15-year-old Charlotte
engages in painfully misguided behavior to outrun her real grief, including
writing X-rated notes to guidance counselors and offering blowjobs to
creepy jocks. The more helpless she feels, the more she lodges herself
in fantasies of seductive omnipotence inspired by Helen of Troy.
As Charlotte, Laura Heisler is onstage nearly every moment of this intense,
affecting production, fearlessly committing body (fluids) and soul to
her character's kamikaze dive. She's supported by Daniel Aukin's steady
direction and a strong cast, including standout Jason Jurman, playing
a sweet nerd named Franklin. Jurman inhabits a performance so palpably
vulnerable you experience his awkwardness at a subcutaneous level, his
monosyllabic anguish an effective contrast to Charlotte's logorrhea.
Kip Marsh's stark living room set features a sofa facing upstage, suggesting
the lack of direct emotional connection in Charlotte's world. But on a
certain level the play, too, turns its back on her. While Schultz finds
nuance in the teenage encounters, he hasn't figured out how to get his
adult characters into the act. Maybe Charlotte's father (Christopher McCann)
really has been silenced by sadness, but his repeated preference for the
TV remote over conversation feels like a dodge on the part of the playwright.
There's one stunning scene that quietly regards the possibility of incest
between father and daughter, but that's as close—and it's rivetingly close—as
Schultz comes to mining the deeper dramatic territory between the two.
Everything's epicenter is ultimately Charlotte's big mouth: her rants
and darkly hypnotic monologues reveling in the fall of Troy. Like his
protagonist, Schultz can use language as an act of aggression, and his
strong sense of rhythm and build yields impressive weaponry. But the playwright
struggles to deploy his arsenal in the service of story development. Essentially,
we watch Charlotte do the same thing again and again; by the second hour,
the play starts to feels mired in her strategy instead of shedding light
on it. And since the ending doesn't feel brought on by any particular
event, the result isn't so much cathartic as merely a relief.
Everything Will Be Different
By Mark Schultz
46 Walker Street