The Mask and Bauble Dramatic Society’s production of The History Boys at Georgetown University is worthy of being performed at a prestigious theatre in DC. The History Boys is a play by Alan Bennett about several English boys preparing for exams that could potentially get them into Cambridge or Oxford. The acting, set, costume, lighting and direction feel like professionals have worked on them, not undergraduate students.
The set (Taylor Brown) is set up on either side of the venue; on one end there is the teacher’s lounge and on the other there is a classroom (written on the chalkboard is “All knowledge is precious whether or not it serves the slightest human use”, a line from the play) , a wide wooden floor is spread between two sides of the audience and the two sets, creating a rectangular stage. The boys’ costumes (Lorrie Damerau) comprise of schoolboy uniforms; matching striped ties, black jackets and brown loafers. All of this faithfully matches the typical English preparatory school and this play.
Hector (Adrian Prado), the “general studies” instructor, teaches the boys trivia about everything, all kinds of poetry, literature, film, languages and music to no specific purpose. Irwin (Greg Brew) is the new teacher designed to train the students to get into OxBridge (Oxford and Cambridge). Both characters are difficult and complicated, but Prado and Brew believably portray men that are older than they are. When Irwin is teaching his class, he is dominant, interesting and persuasive while showing what it takes to get into a top school; he does not look like he is the same age as the actors playing the schoolboys. However, Hector has a completely different relationship with his students than Irwin. Hector is a walking encyclopedia for the boys; he seems to know everything about anything in literature and culture in general. Even though Prado physically does not look that much older than the boys, the wealth of knowledge that he owns through his character carries a wisdom that is pronounced through all of his lines.
In an exceptionally entertaining scene, Hector is teaching the students French, and the boys must make up a scene speaking only in the conditional or the subjunctive. In a scene that is spoken completely in French (sorry, for those of you who took Spanish in high school), the boys are pretending to be in a brothel, Daken (Taylor Mansmann) is the client who takes off his pants (in the classroom) and lays down over two desks while negotiating the price with the prostitute, when the Headmaster walks in (Connor Joseph), asking what is going on. Suddenly the boys pretend that they were doing a scene in French at a military hospital where Daken was a wounded soldier. All the boys start howling and screaming as if they were patients in unbearable pain. This scene is hilarious, due to great acting and directing (Emma Clark).
This production of The History Boys shows what the future of theatre has in store for us; these students are great actors and the work put in to this show is considerable. This is a great show if you want to stimulate your mind and learn new things, as well as practice your French.
The Mask and Bauble Dramatic Society’s The History Boys is a definite must-see for all literature and history freaks, and theatregoers out there.
Running Time: Approximately two hours and 40 minutes, with a 10-minute intermission.
The History Boys plays through October 27, 2012 at Poulton Hall at Georgetown University – on the corner of 37th and P Streets, NW, in Washington, DC. For tickets, call 202-687-3838, or purchase them online.