Everything Will Be Different: A Heroine Who Will Never Have Paris

It’s tough enough being a teenager. There are all of the pressures of fitting in, striving to feel as if one belongs, and figuring out what to be when "grown up". Add the unexpected – the death of a parent, for instance – and being a teen becomes even more unbearable. All of these issues come into play for Charlotte, the young woman at the center of Mark Schultz’s richly dark Everything Will Be Different, which opened over the weekend at the Soho Rep. Charlotte’s distant father isn’t much help as she strives to maneuver through her rocky emotional and psychological world. So she fantasizes an escape route, taking a cue from the classics – wouldn’t it be terrific if she could be like Helen of Troy? Or perhaps, she’s more like Hermione, Helen’s daughter, who’s left behind after Helen’s been abducted by Paris. The problem is that Charlotte (the exquisite Laura Heisler) isn’t what one might call Britney Spears beautiful. She’s pretty, but in a sort of tomboyish way. So, she has to do a lot of fantasizing and this is where Schultz’s script and Daniel Aukin’s skilled and understanding staging get interesting. "Different" moves back and forth through Charlotte’s real world and her fantasy world. In the production, instead of having the differences in reality indicated by, for instance, extreme lighting changes (Jane Cox’s lighting modulates gracefully), Aukin allows the two worlds to look and feel remarkably similar. Thus, one’s always kept – like a teenager – off balance, at sea. It’s a grand choice. Thus, one doesn’t know if Charlotte’s decision to go to her kind guidance counselor (Geoffrey Nauffts) for help in figuring out how to be a porn star is real or not. One is certain though that on his second appearance, when he suggests this career – and an affair – the play falls into fantasy realm. The problem is that Charlotte begins to spin this fantasy into a reality that threatens to destroy the man’s career. Charlotte’s fantasy world has equally disastrous results when it comes to her bookish classmate Franklin (Jason Jurman), whom she tries to charm (strong-arm?) into romance. When he callously brushes her off, she begins to fantasize and then, initiate an affair with his cousin, football hero Freddie (Reynaldo Valentin). She offers up easy sex to this young brute and along the way announces that Franklin is gay and has his own fantasies about Freddie. It, unfortunately, goes without saying that things end badly for all three. As if she knows that none of these would-be Parises will be her salvation, Charlotte also imagines confrontations with her father, where she’s packed and ready to leave on her own. As a sort of solace, she has also created a mental relationship with cheerleader-pretty Heather (Naomi Aborn), who helps guide Charlotte through a world of "product" and allows Charlotte to live her wealthy, jet-setting life vicariously. It’s a poignant portrait of a teenager’s world and painful indictment of society’s emphasis on beauty. To Schultz’s credit, his script, punctuated with Charlotte’s in-class reports on the Helen myth, never becomes a stage equivalent of an After School Special. Instead, its lyricism and sophistication allow it to transcend this genre, adding it to an already healthy body of "Helen" plays.

Everything Will Be Different continues through April 30 at Soho Rep (46 Walker Street). Performances are Wednesday through Saturday at 7:30pm. Tickets are $15.00 and can be purchased by calling 212-868-4444. Further information is available online at www.sohorep.org.

-- Andy Propst