Too Cruel for School

A Brief History of Helen of Troy is a torturous ride through late adolescence

The other characters are less archetypal and more individualistic. Kimble's turn as Charlotte's dad is full of paradox — one senses he's the only one who loves her, but his love has turned corrosive; it's palpable in his every stilted gesture and guilty outburst of anger. Even at play's end, when resolution is hinted at, there is something awful in the way he hugs his daughter, suggesting that the incestuous impulses that have bubbled under throughout the show could explode at any minute. Jessica Farr's Heather, whom we believe to be Charlotte's only friend, is an obvious counterpoint: Popular but loving, tender but plucky, she is Charlotte's personal Helen.

Ceci Fernandez is one of the most beautiful girls you'll ever meet, and it is a tribute to her skills that audiences can quickly come to believe her character is as ugly as everyone says. Not that Charlotte admits it; even as she is denied solace wherever she seeks it, she is wrapped in a protective bubble of self-delusion that seems both more genuine and infinitely braver than the poses adopted by the heroes of ordinary survival stories. This is not one of those. This is a real survival story, the kind played out in every school in the world, where the heroine has neither self-image nor conviction to fall back on. Fernandez's performance is a dramatization of a scramble to be able to face oneself in the mirror — the smile she flashes not the stuff of conscious bravery, but of necessity.

Farr and Fernandez: Catholic girls arenít what they used to be

Details

Through August 25. Written by Mark Schultz. Directed by Stuart Meltzer. With Ceci Fernandez, Joe Kimble, Jessica Farr, Alex Fumero, Nick Duckardt, and Matthew Glass. Mad Cat Theatre Company, 3000 Biscayne Blvd, Ste 100, Miami; 305-576-6377, www.madcattheatre.com.

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There are shades of meaning in Everything Will Be Different's constant Hellenic allusions, in its incestuous subtexts, and in Charlotte's endless talk of her lost mother. But its greatest value is almost certainly in the way audiences of all kinds will watch the pitiful struggles onstage and beg Charlotte to fall over and die, just to spare herself and us any further indignities; and how those audiences will feel offended when she doesn't; and how they'll secretly wish to spit on her themselves, just to get even. That human beings can feel such a thing is very bad news. But if Everything Will Be Different is right about anything, we can feel sure we'll survive it.

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