Friday, March 28, 2008


The History Boys at the Studio Theatre Is a Hit

It has been said countless times, but a play is only as good as the play itself or better said the script. Certainly The History Boys by playwright Alan Bennett is a gem due to its lively language but more so because the characters interact so convincingly, for Bennett has the gift of reflecting how people actually speak while building the thread of the story at the same time.

The Studio Theatre's production is superb and the acting by a perfectly chosen cast could not be any better. Certainly Washington-favorite Floyd King as the school teacher Hector should receive a nomination for acting because he fits this role like a glove. Here King is able to pull back and show the frailty of his character while building his teaching style with the boys. In fact, the chemistry on the stage is so effortless that one can literally forget that he is not in a actual classroom--the boys are so convincing in their roles.

The boys are all so fluid in their roles that as a cast they are the energy that moves the story forward much like the synergy of a good campaign. Yet Jay Sullivan who plays Dakin, given his role, stands out because he is able to manipulate others around him including the other teacher, Irwin, played by Simon Kendall. The language and subject matter of the interaction does not come across as a cheap trick but rather has a real and disturbing possibility, such that one wonders how often teachers might be manipulated by students rather than the reverse. The realization of this phenomenon perhaps shocks the audience into facing truths no one wants to discuss.

The humor Bennett weaves into the play is astutely stated by Tana Hicken in her role as Lintott, the only female teacher among the mass of stupid men throughout history. That Bennett can mix seriousness with ice humor is only one of his charms as a writer, for again if the play is well written the director is given a gift to unfold on the stage and director Joy Zinoman does this play justice with the simple but effect stage design by Russell Metheny.

Finally, the lessons taught by teachers Hector and Irwin via their respective styles are clear for the audience to evaluate and in the end one has to ask himself: What do students really learn from any education? Not surprisingly it is character Posner, played by Owen Scott, who takes Hector's lessons on the power of language to heart and comes away perhaps reflecting the very experience of the playwright himself, Bennett, or one can conjecture so.

My advice is to order your tickets for this exceptional play before it sells out. Now at the Studio Theatre: 202.332.3300.

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