Set in a London boy’s school in the 1980s, “History Boys” is about eight grammar school (what would be called high school in the U.S.) whose sights are set on getting into the most difficult of English universities, Oxford and Cambridge. Like most Weekend Theater performances, this one drew quite a crowd. Unfortunately, it fell a little flat, and quite a few folks bailed during intermission. The play was over-long — about three hours total — and dynamics were a bit unbalanced between two of the main characters, Hector (Tucker Steinmetz) and Irwin (Ian Moore).
Hector, as the school’s loveable, if unorthodox, teacher, carried the play with wit and passion. As Hector’s complete opposite, Irwin should have been more spirited in his interaction with the older teacher. But Steinmetz’s performance far outshone Moore’s.
The plot itself was somewhat confusing and difficult to follow, with flashes into the future — Irwin in a wheelchair giving a monologue — that felt incongruent with present scenes. I’m all for surprises and plot twists, but the flash forwards served mainly to perplex.
Dialogue occasionally offered small windows into the boys’ personalities. Dakin (Justin Pike) is the pretty boy trying to get in the school secretary’s pants. Posner (Zachary Hickman) is the smart Jewish kid who’s open about his crush on Dakin. Scripps (William Moon) focuses his feelings of love towards God.
Hector is caught fondling one of his students on a motorbike and is forced into early retirement. Irwin takes a liking to Dakin but tries to hide it. And Dakin, previously interested in girls, decides he has feelings for Irwin.
Plot confusion and stage dynamics aside, all of the actors did a good job with their British accents and kept their energy up through the long performance. The folks that stuck around after intermission seemed to thoroughly enjoy the entire play. I can’t say I was one of those folks, but a single mediocre performance won’t keep me away from the Weekend Theater for good. Perhaps “History Boys,” with its jokes about the BBC2 and other such British arcana, was just the wrong choice for this venue.