The History Boys
by Willard Manus
BOYS, Alan Bennett's bittersweet play about eight English middleclass
schoolkids trying to cope with the pressures of university exams--and
their own burgeoning sexuality--was a big success in London and New York.
The movie was a surprising flop, but that didn't keep the Broadway producers
from sending out a road company which played recently at the Ahmanson
Caught between these two contradictory forces are the kids. They can't help but like Hector who, after all, teaches French by employing dialogue one might use in a brothel. What complicates things, though, is that Hector is also a bit of a pedophile. The kids accept him for what he is--some of them, like Posner (Alex Brightman), are gay anyway. Sex, like their schooling, is a rite of passage they treat with refreshing equanimity and humor, even if it sometimes bewilders and distresses them.
The system is much more unforgiving and moralistic than the students are, as Hector discovers much to his rue. THE HISTORY BOYS can be read as an attack on modern educational values--and as a plea for tolerance where queer sex is concerned. The play wobbles at times in its exploration of those themes, but in the end Bennett's crisp and witty dialogue--and the slick acting and production values--manage to carry the day.
Now running at the Ahmanson is the musical, THE COLOR PURPLE, produced by Oprah Winfrey. Through March 9, 2008.
Ahmanson Theatre, 135 N. Grand Ave. Call 213-628.2772 or visit centertheatregroup.org.