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Theater review: 'Everything Will Be Different' at the Zephyr Theatre [Updated]

October 21, 2010 |  5:30 pm

IMG_8371If adolescence is a trial, the protagonist of "Everything Will Be Different" at the Zephyr Theatre faces a self-enacted inquisition. Mark Schultz's 2005 dramedy about a 15-year-old in crisis after her mother's death is strong meat, and its West Coast premiere by the Echo Theatre Company doesn't shirk the unsettling aspects.

Subtitled "A Brief History of Helen of Troy," the play concerns Charlotte (the fearless Alana Dietze), an ungainly teen whose deadpan agitation masks profound trauma. Harry (Christopher Fields), her father, has withdrawn into booze and network news since losing Charlotte's beautiful mother, and would prefer to freeze his daughter in time.

Increasingly desperate, Charlotte fixates on the mythical Helen and, as she tells guidance counselor Gary (Bryan T. Donovan), her career goal of porn stardom. What follows is an occasionally blurry yet fascinating seriocomic scenario that pulls Gary, geek Franklin (Wallace Bruce) and jock Freddie (Bobby Campo) into Charlotte's fantasy life, aided by Heather (Liz Fenning), her all-too-perfect best friend.

Director John Lawler gives this psychosexual parable a suitably off-kilter staging, the designs effective, particularly Frederica Nascimento's schematic set and Jared A. Sayeg's surreal lighting. Dietze fully inhabits Charlotte's spiky persona, daring to risk alienating us before exposing her pain, and her colleagues land the narrative's stylized attack.

Whether that carries past some clashes between tone and intent is a subjective matter, and Schultz's ambitious script doesn't always keep us from getting ahead of its twists. Nonetheless, "Different" is certainly original, compassionate and provocative. Theatergoers may find its unsparing viewpoint hard to shake.

-- David C. Nichols

"Everything Will Be Different," Zephyr Theatre, 7456 Melrose Ave., L.A. 8 p.m. Fridays and Saturdays, 7 p.m. Sundays. Ends Nov. 14. $20 and $25. (877) 369-9112. Running time: 1 hour, 40 minutes.

[Updated: In an earlier version of this review Frederica Nascimento's first name was written as Francesca.]

Photo: Bryan T. Donovan and Alana Dietze. Credit: Megan J. Carroll