The Little Theatre of Alexandria presents Alan Bennett’s Tony Award-winning The History Boys. Frank D. Shutts ll directs a talented cast in this rich production. Utilizing thousands of literary references and quoting hundreds of authors, this drama delves into the dense world of academia, and is perfect inspiration for intellectual debate.
The technical elements work together harmoniously to create the desired foundation for this production; Scenic Designer Matt Liptak uses white-washed brick and handsome wooden furniture for the polished, somewhat intimidating boarding school classroom. Golden trophies, an impressive stone bust, and a worn globe sit alongside stacks of haphazardly-piled books.
As there are no set changes throughout the show, Lead Constructer Dennis Dubberley and Lead Painter Leslie Reed made the most of the space provided; your eyes cannot move an inch without catching a thoughtful and provoking detail. As this is a play driven by dialogue and not action, there isn’t a lot of thrilling effects, but what remains is highly professional. With the help of Master Electrician Micheal J. O’Çonnor, Lighting Designers Ken and Patti Crowley use a variety of tones to highlight the changing energy of the plot, and Sound Designer David Hale has a few perfectly-timed cues up his sleeve. Costume Designers Jean Schlichting and Kit Sibley use formal preparatory school uniforms and sharply-dressed professors to complete the stoic, proud atmosphere of higher learning.
While Cutlers’ Grammar School’s Headmaster (Ned Read) is eager to maintain a respectful reputation for his school, his spirited pupils seem to have other ideas. Though clever and quick, the students are also unruly, impish and crass, behaviors that are no doubt encouraged by their eccentric English professor Hector (a fantastic performance by Jeffrey Westlake, who does real justice for this complex role).
Believing that that their chances of being accepted into an Ivy League college are hindered, the headmaster hires a respected history professor named Irwin (a steadfast and solid performance by Michael Dobbyn) with the hope that his influence will polish up the student’s overall demeanor. What is delivered, however, is an in-depth study of the human collision as a band of rowdy students are taught by two exceedingly different professors. Universal questions ranging from the importance of education to the importance of history itself are explored through two very different methods of teaching; one unconventional and innovative, the other made up of debate and deduction. When the boys finally seem capable of meeting this academic cultures high standards, a shocking revelation throws everything into question.
Although, at times, I found the play hard to follow, I am willing to bet that I could see it over and over and come away with something new to analyze every time. Patience is paramount for this multifaceted piece, while there are many moments of humor in this production.
LTA has put together an incredible ensemble for this production. The young men work well off of each other, particularly Taylor Witt as the popular and proud Dakin and Joshua Mutterperl as Posner, a sensitive student in a vulnerable situation. Jack Esposito is cloyingly charming as Rudge, a typical jock who doesn’t have much to offer beyond his sports skills and impish grin, and I loved Kate Ives as Dorothy Lintott, a dedicated teacher trying to uphold her footing in this male-dominated environment. With scenes ranging from downright frivolous, to poignant and somber, this cast takes these roles and makes them heartbreakingly relatable.
If you’re looking to share a thought-provoking work with your peers and friends, then Little Theatre of Alexandria’s exceptional production of The History Boys is a perfect fit. Don’t miss it!
Running Time: Approximately two hours and 45-minutes, including one 15-minute intermission.