Tuesday, August 12, 2014

The History Boys at The Mad Cow Theater

On August 5th, I went to a dress rehearsal of The History Boys, written by Alan Bennett, at The Mad Cow TheaterThis show, directed by Mark Edward Smith was quick witted and fast paced. The school bells rang with incessant frequency causing the boys to cascade and rush like waves hitting a beach.  I grew flustered, trying to catch then all in one place. Philip Nolen, gave a memorable performance as the boys' unorthodox history teacher. Philip kept the boys and audience laughing while making them think. He would playfully swat a student if he wasn't keeping up with the playful banter. The boys would protest but they didn't mind. One admitted he was a bit hurt that he wasn't swatted. It meant the teacher didn't like him.

One boy described his date with a girl as if he was recreating a historic battle. Adolescent sexual yearnings were fodder for playful humor. I came to admire the teacher's closed door tactics until he was found guilty of inappropriately touching a boy.  It suddenly seemed that the all boy's school was bubbling over with homosexuality. A young teacher, Peter Travis, joins the school staff and he challenges the view of history as entertainment. he prepares the unruly handful of senior schoolboys, for coveted places at either Oxford or Cambridge by making them challenge historic fact. Everyone at an Ivy league school knows the boring facts. They want to see someone think outside the box. The boys were encouraged to challenge conventions and therefor  they not only learned historic fact but they understood its motives and meaning. I was a bit put off by this teacher's view that any student who didn't get good grades could always go into the arts.

When the older teacher is about to be expelled, he breaks down in class, lamenting the years he wasted teaching the same material again and again. It is the first time the students got to see him as a flawed man rather than a clown. Everyone seems to want to sweep his indiscretion under the rug except for the school administrator played by Tommy Keesling. The very purpose of education seemed overshadowed by the chaos of adolescence. The play write turns a blind eye to the harm done from lost trust. The one boy who didn't play along in classroom games got accepted into his chosen Ivy league school not because of what he learned from history, but from his family connections.

 The History Boys plays Thursdays - Sundays, Aug 8 - Sept 7, 2014 in The Harriett Theatre.
Curtain time is 7:30pm for all evening performances and 2:30pm for all matinees. Tickets start at $28.25.


 The History Boys
What: A comedy-drama by Alan Bennett
Length: 2:40, including intermission
Where: Mad Cow Theatre, 54 W. Church St., Orlando
When: 7:30 p.m. Thursdays-Saturdays, 2:30 p.m. Sundays, through Sept. 7
Tickets: $28.25 and higher
Call: 407-297-8788
Online: madcowtheatre.com

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