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Reviews for "Everything Will Be Different"

ARTS IN REVIEW San Diego Jewish World

By Carol Davis
SAN DIEGO—When Al Germani came on the theatre scene as a force to reckon with, most of us knew that the subject matter, his choices and topics of his plays for his Lynx Theatre would be hard to top. Germani’s credentials read more like a physician/therapist/dancer at one of the more recognizable rehabilitation facilities than as a theatre producer/director.

Al has been a theatre director, choreographer, musician and psychotherapist for the past twenty-five years. He came onto the SD scene in 2003 with an agenda he describes as being ‘dedicated to the creative, authentic investigation and preservation of the human condition’. He goes on to say that the goal of Lynx Theatre is to ‘produce work of world class playwrights in an exciting, provocative, progressive theatre format that incorporates psychological credibility and emotional realism and creates theatre that alters how we see and experience ourselves and the world around us.' “A lens which allows us to see the world a little bit clearer, and a vehicle to bring us to feel and experience our world a little bit deeper.”

This is a monumental task for a tiny theatre company that, like the little engine that could, keeps chugging along. Lynx Theatre is among the growing number of theater companies who have no building of their own and consequently rent space in other venues. In the case of Lynx, they are located on 2653 Ariane Drive some miles west of Costco off Morena Blvd. in the Clairemont neighborhood of San Diego. It is a Theatre in Residence at San Diego Danceworks by night and by day a dance studio. The good news is that the shows Germani produces are perfect for small, intimate, up close and personal settings. In the past he has mounted How I Learned to Drive, The Exonerated, Crave, Dutchman, Jesus Hopped the A Train, In Arabia We’ll All Be Kings, and House Of Blue Leaves all to rave reviews.

Now through November 23 Germani is mounting the West Coast premiere production of Mark Schultz’s Everything Will Be Different: A Brief History of Helen of Troy. Schultz won the National Arts Club’s 2006 Kesserling Prize for playwriting. Previous winners were Nicky Silver and Tony Kushner. He’s in very good company.

Under the best of circumstances, no one knows how one would react to the death of a parent. Under the worst of circumstances, whatever was wrong with the family dynamic gets worse. In the case of a teenager, it is magnified ten fold. Charlotte, the main character in Schultz’s play (Michelle Procopio, at right) is fifteen. She has just lost her mother. She and her father are mourning the mother’s death.

When we first see her in a darkened sloppy mess of an apartment, her father Harry (Bill Kehayias) is in a drunken stupor in front of the TV and she is curled up in a fetal position in her room. There is a movie screen in the background (Germani set and lighting). For the longest time, there is just mumbling coming from Harry. Charlotte lies as still as a church mouse. Every now and then, Harry blurts something out at his daughter. \

Schultz’s play is like an onion with many coats of skin that under Germani’s delicate yet probing direction, new and troubling layers come to light with each scene. On the surface Charlotte is a troubled teenager who at the worse thinks of herself as ugly and unappealing. At best, she’s still alive. She has few friends and her best friend Heather (Joan Westmoreland) who may be a figment of her imagination is beautiful. Lacking in teenage social skills and thinking herself ugly yet wanting to be beautiful and sexy, she pretty much blames her lack of friends on the fact that she is ugly.

And here we go off on a running side by side commentary of Helen of Troy, (in her own version of the story) and the idea that beauty leads to desire that leads to power that leads to revenge against anyone who doesn’t notice her. Those include her guidance counselor Gary Smith (wonderfully diverse and perfectly paced Walter Ritter) with whom she tries to advance a theory of her becoming a hooker (read prostitute) in order to gain love; a school friend Franklin (Kevin Koppman-Gue) who really likes her only to be the butt of her vicious lies about his being gay, and an abrasive and combative come lately to the scene Freddie (Joshua Manley) who plays Charlotte against Franklin. It’s as painful to watch, as it is to sit through and not wonder how they will all come out in the end. One also wonders how someone so damaged got to this point at such a young and vulnerable age until we see and hear Harry ranting and raving to her about how she could never measure up to her mother’s beauty and if she dares try to leave…well! The thought of her leaving scares him to threats toward her.

The question of what their relationship was before the mom passed comes into doubt too. Looking at the glass as half full and trying his best, there is so much pain for him he cannot even help his daughter. Looking at it as half empty, one wonders if there was some sort of incest going on. When he curls up next to her in the end, there is a question mark.

Adding another dimension to the look and depth of the play, Germani uses video projections to mount oversized pictures of those whose influence Charlotte is under and with whom she has conversations. They come up in back of her and tower over the space that it is so in your face convincing one wonders if something else is going on here. It almost seems as if they are beamed into her thought process. At one point I half expected the characters to come out on stage and confront her, that’s how realistic it appeared.

And speaking of realistic one has to give kudos to Procopio for her concentrated and difficult portrayal of a deeply troubled teenager, one whose psyche is almost beyond therapy. Kehayias’ Harry is really scary. His look is one of confusion, driven by his drunken state, unkempt and seriously menacing when he seems to be with it. There were times during the production I actually felt fear for Charlotte. My only problem with Kehayias was that sometimes I could not understand what he was saying.

Ritter, resident actor and a well known name the community, has the toughest balancing act to perform as both the guidance counselor and only male adult who has his wits about him. But when Charlotte tries to seduce him, you have to hold your breath and pray that he’s stronger than she. Both of the young men are convincing and do probable work in a confined space especially when Charlotte starts to act out the sexual favors she will give to the boys.

Schultz’s play is very complex and disturbing. But…that’s Germani’s mission. It works and his work is commendable. Looking through the ‘looking glass’ of life, everything will be and is different. See you at the theatre.

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Stimulating theatre that matters
11/5/08 By Charlene Baldridge, La Jolla Village News

This theater critic is happy to report that director/producer Al Germani and his Lynx Performance Theatre are alive and well and doing what they do best, which is presenting visceral, stimulating theater that matters. Others may aspire to do this, and some do, but no one does it quite so thoroughly or effectively as Lynx.

The current production, continuing through Nov. 23 in the Morena/Bay Park district, is 2006 Kesselring Prize recipient Mark Schultz's "Everything Will Be Different," packed with all the above and featuring a brilliant ensemble of exceptionally well cast, well directed actors.

Helen is dead. Harry, her widower, uses alcohol and television as anesthetics. Charlotte, their teenage daughter, acts out possible antidotes to her grief and loneliness, taking counsel from friends in hallucinations and true would-be friends in the form of Franklin, a neighborhood boy, and Gary Smith, a high school guidance counselor. Though virginal, Charlotte believes her future lies in becoming a porn star - adulation no matter the cost.

Germani's psychologically true and taut production exposes the black, hopeless pit of extreme loss, especially as it affects an inarticulate middle-age father and a pubescent girl who lacks wisdom and coping skills and guidance, and who explores every possible avenue by which she might gain the attention, love and reassurance she needs regarding her person, her psyche and her budding sexuality. Perversely and cruelly, she manipulates, seeking to sully and harm those who truly care, and throwing herself at a handsome but hollow jock (Joshua Manley).

This may sound grim. It is. It's a piece of reality seldom visited, seldom discussed in polite society: the fallout of death. But there are compensations in Schultze's play - unexpected music, darkly funny moments and such splendid acting that one cares for all these people, most especially Charlotte, who is so lost.

The playwright writes brilliantly, in short bursts when creating his paralyzed mourners, and in longer, poetic phrases when delusion-sprung characters speak, offering beauty tips (some hilarious) and relating the myth of Helen of Troy and the daughter she left behind when she was abducted. It works.

Michelle Procopio, familiar to Lynx audiences as L'il Bit in "How I Learned to Drive," is mesmerizing as Charlotte. Bill Kehayias, who portrayed the drunken Sammy in "In Arabia We'd All Be Kings" breaks one's heart as Harry, the father paralyzed by grief. Walter Ritter, who was also seen in "Arabia," does his best work as the guidance counselor. Kevin Koppman-Gue, also in "How I Learned to Drive," and seen many times on local stages, is excellent as Franklin.

Inhabiting Charlotte's projected fantasies are Joan Westmoreland as girlfriend Heather and Alicia Randolph as Young Char.

"Everything Will Be Different" plays at 8 p.m. Fridays, Saturdays and Sundays tix $20 -$15 and Tues at 9 pm tix $10, thru Nov 23rd at Lynx Theatre, in residence at SD Danceworks, 2653 Ariane Drive, San Diego. Map, directions, online tix and all other info on website at www.lynxperformance.com or 619-889-3190.

Charlene Baldridge
freelance journalist, poet, and critic, member of San Diego Theatre Critics Circle writes locally for North County Times, La Jolla Village News, Downtown News, Performances Magazine. Find her online at
http://members.cox.net/charb81

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Everything Will Be Different
10/31/08 by Thom Vegh, espresso-refill.blogspot.com

“Everything Will be Different” by Mark Schultz is a psychological study of a teenage girl and the events that precede her suicide. We know this from the evening’s onset. The victim of covert incest by her recently widowed father, Charlotte struggles to find her sanity in a world he is savagely distorts. She seeks to order her world in attempts at sexually pleasing men (failed) in order to gain physical beauty, attention, acceptance and, hopefully, love or at least a bit of comfort. Fantasy is her most effective narcotic.

Lynx founder Al Germani directed the show with taut signature ensemble. Mr. Germani, a professionally trained dancer and actor who then also pursued a career in psychotherapy is in league with Mr. Schultz’s artistic sensibilities.

Singling out a particular performance might be unfair to his dutiful ensemble company, a cast ranging in ages from the teens into their 50s. However, in the central character of Charlotte, Michelle Procopio’s portrait of her endures and manifests a hundred shades of emotion to reveal the child-woman valiantly fighting for her identify to the psychological battering by her alcoholic father and her own, now distorted, psyche. Walter Ritter as Charlotte’s guidance counselor provides a voice of reason in the story and does so without didacticism nor condescension. Even when the actor threatened with Charlotte’s fantasized pornographic “documentation” of his “seduction” of her manages the character’s career-tumbling and jail-threatening prospect without stridency nor bombast. He, at wit’s end, negotiates a logical surrender of the items from the psychotic Charlotte. Easily a role for over kill, his Gary Smith becomes a four dimensional, well-intentioned and wise counselor pushed to the edge of life and livelihood suicide if he doesn’t stop the volatile Charlotte.

Franklin is Charlotte’s cohort and a genuinely well adjusted kid in an ever changing environment of social pressures. Kevin Koppman-Gue’s fresh-faced moment-to-moment undemanding friendship with Charlotte lays victim to her gossip of him as a supposed gay. He is not. Her gossip leads to his face battering by their group’s “alpha male,” Freddie (a likely toxic narcissist careless dropped from his mother’s womb). Joshua Manley’s bellicose presence as Freddie has a disturbing teen authenticity; you might still hear the echo of his skate board in the parking lot after he enters the scene if listening careful enough.

In semi-comatose alcoholic stupor, Harry waits for daughter Charlotte’s return under Bill Kehayias’ dutifully understated performance. Occasionally lifting himself out his armchair to accost Charlotte, Kehayias plays him so damaged and stymied with fear of his daughter’s abandonment there is no flicker of hope in his heart of darkness the light of which is woefully insufficient for himself let alone his self-mutilated daughter.

Psychological conflicts are elegantly rendered to create audience response. One can see the dynamics of Charlotte’s entangled mind. You feel helpless as she uses her only weapon, the violence of gossip, to get what she thinks will satisfy her: the opportunity to perform a sex act on a male adolescent friend. There is no predication for shock value in this play.

The design style for “Everything Will be Different” is minimal and aptly provides focus on the human figure. Germani, also the show’s designer and videographer, employs oversized video projection of characters above the performance space, which dominate Charlotte’s endeavors.

A colleague tells me Mr. Germani is a taxing director with which to work. The same is said about Des McAnuff. In San Diego, evoking potent work from actors with day jobs is daunting proposition. To cast, secure and sustain a working relationship with actors in this economic situation requires unique skills. It appears to me actors who successfully work with Mr. Germani have done so with a residue of substantial respect for him and became more seasoned artists for the wear.

High standards demand high risk when creating psycho-social contemporary drama especially in order to affect today’s nescient commercial image-drubbed audience member.

Likewise, if such audience members exit Lynx angry at the work they are pointing their finger in the wrong direction. Rather, they have the opportunity to discuss why they are upset. Therein are more substance of the theatre-going experience and the lasting pay-off of the evening’s investment.

One local female theatre critic became enraged at the piece. Great! Personally, I guess some transference was at work and unresolved issues of rejection were hit for that observer: I know some of mine were irritated.

“Everything Will be Different” encourages me in believing small San Diego theatre companies are capable of producing works of integrity.

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