You 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.