Gawky adolescent Charlotte (Caroline Neff) spins out of control after her mother’s death, clinging to an emotionally adrift father (Peter Moore). She convinces herself that her beauty is her salvation, careening wildly between plans for a career in porn and promiscuity with local boys.
Director Joanie Schultz deftly handles Mark Schultz’s rhythmic, poetic script. Neff’s physicality works against her, but she finds the eternally awkward, casually cruel teenager we’re all familiar with. Moore’s alcohol-fueled grief is appropriately repulsive when he lashes out; Katy Boza as Charlotte’s “companion” is cheerily cheap and cheesy, embodying Charlotte’s unsophisticated beauty ideals. Michael Salinas’ fine turn as Charlotte’s guidance counselor in reality and delusion is both human and giddily sleazy. Nick Horst and Brandon J. Thompson are excellent as friends caught in Charlotte’s vortex, receiving the brunt of her malicious fantasies. Chelsea Warren’s set design opens the room to cruelty that stretches for miles. (Lisa Buscani)
“A Brief History of Helen of Troy,” Steep Theatre, 1115 West Berwyn, (866)811-4111, through October 30.