EVERYTHING WILL BE DIFFERENT: A Brief History of Helen of Troy by Mark Schultz – Zephyr Theatre – Los Angeles Theater Review

by Tony Frankel on October 23, 2010

in Theater-Los Angeles

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Acned, awkward, ambitious, angry, alienated, angst-ridden adolescent Charlotte (a must-see performance by Alana Dietze) is having a bad go at it (more so than the normal discomfiture of pubescence): her beautiful mother has recently passed on, and her father Harry (a moribund Christopher Fields) is drinking and lashing out at the poor girl. She intermingles fantasy and reality – resorting to delusion and derring-do to make sense of her personal tragedy.

In Everything Will Be Different: A Brief History of Helen of Troy, Charlotte will test the boundaries of sex, fame, and beauty because she sees parallels in the story of Helen of Troy (which she monologues in four parts); if she becomes desirable, beautiful, and famous, as in the Greek tale, would that take away the harrowing grief caused by her mother’s death?

Although Charlotte is sarcastic, snotty, and snide, we find her endearing when she tells a guidance counselor (humorous Bryan T. Donovan) that she wants to be a porn star. We relate to her fantasies about sex with the school jock, Freddie (Final Destination’s Bobby Campo, with that rare mix of physical beauty and great acting chops; he’s a star in the making); we remain riveted once she pounces on the same unwitting jock for a date. Even as we may disapprove of her machinations, we can certainly empathize with her inability to get past her fury, even when she humiliates what may be her only friend, Franklin (the vulnerable Wallace Bruce).

Mark Schultz’s script of Everything Will Be Different is alternately beautiful, heartbreaking, funny, and tragic. Perhaps it is John Lawler’s direction that makes this recommended outing occasionally murky. He fleshes out three-dimensional characters from his actors, but there can be some awkward staging and interminable moments of silence that don’t add to the intensity of the piece. His set designer Frederica Nascimento only hints at the locations, such as Charlotte’s home. And, um, is that a silhouette of a dead bird on the floor of the stage? And why is there a blackboard with a chalk outline of a bird with one wing filled in? Since nobody refers to it, are we to guess that it is symbolic for the girl with a broken wing?

In dealing with the death of his wife, the father can come off as imbecilic and unsympathetic; lines like “You’re ugly” may work better if they are threatening. The eventual coming together of father and daughter feels disingenuous, especially since there have been hints that incest is on the horizon (or has it already happened?). As a result, the scenes in which Charlotte fights with her father come off as strained instead of provocative.

Still, Everything Will Be Different is dark, disturbing, and funny, and most of the scenes are deliciously uncomfortable, such as the hint of lesbianism with Charlotte’s (possibly) imaginary friend, Heather (a goofy and egotistical Liz Fenning).

This is an evening you won’t soon forget, especially the bravura performance by Alana Dietze.

tonyfrankel @ stageandcinema.com

photos by Megan J. Carroll

poster image by Josh Worth

scheduled to close November 14 at time of publication
for tickets, visit http://www.echotheatercompany.com/

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