The History Boys at the Ahmanson - Review

Ammar Ramiz, Dakin Matthews, Charlotte Cornwell, Peter Paige

The History Boys was first produced in 2004 in London at the National Theatre where it won several Olivier Awards (equivalent to our Tony Awards) including Best Play. It toured around the UK and eventually made its way to Broadway in 2006 winning 6 Tony Awards.  Center Theatre Groups new production of The History Boys opened last night at the Ahmanson Theatre in downtown Los Angeles.  This CTG production directed by Paul Miller is recreated from the original NT National Theatre of Great Britain’s production where it was directed by Nicholas Hytner.

CTG's production of The History Boys is packed with very competent actors. The lighting, costumes and set are stark and effective. It cleverly features the use of Video to progress the story. At times as an American it maybe a difficult to follow some of the slang and British cultural references but the line deliveries and well written text enable the audience to get the gist of what is being said.  As always CTG doesn't put out any bad productions and although The History Boys is not one of my favorites it was well recieved by my fellow audience mebers and if you were ever a student you may find yourself relating to the boys on the stage.

Cast of The History Boys

In order to enjoy the play to it's fullest, it might help if you understand the British education system, it varies considerably from its American counterpart. In England, education is only required until age 16.After completing primary school (U.S. grades k-5), students enter secondary education for first through fifth forms (U.S. grades 6-10). At the secondary level, several different types of schools exist. Comprehensive schools are equivalent to American public schools. Tuition-free grammar schools are privately funded and intended for students going on to university.

In sixth form, the student specializes in three or four subject areas, with an
eye toward the intended university major. At the completion of sixth form
(year 13), students take another national exam, A-levels, specific to their
courses of study. Those results determine eligibility for university admission
and scholarship.

Peter Paige, Dakin Matthews, H. Richard Greene

The dream of many sixth-form students was (and still is) to be accepted
into one of the older, more prestigious universities: Oxford or Cambridge,
collectively called Oxbridge. Competition is fierce, and unless students
have received all As, they will likely receive little encouragement from their
teachers to apply. In the 1980s, admission to Oxbridge required yet another
examination and interview at the university. These examinations are what the
students in The History Boys are preparing for, in the semester immediately
following their completion of sixth form.

This is where the play The History Boys begins for the first time in the history of their grammar school, eight sixth-form boys – Akthar (Ammar Ramzi), Crowther (Demond Robertson), Dakin (Seth Numrich), Lockwood (Adam Armstrong), Posner (Alex Brightman), Rudge (Cord Jackman), Scripps (Brett Ryback) and Timms (Sean Marquette) – have distinguished themselves as scholarship candidates for the prestigious Oxford and Cambridge Universities. As they return to their school for a final semester, during which they will prepare for the competitive entrance exams, the boys are greeted with praise by their teachers and the Headmaster (H. Richard Greene).

Seth Numrich, Alex Brightman, Adam Armstrong, Dakin Matthews

To give the boys the edge that will hopefully drive them to success, the
Headmaster hires on a young, maverick, temporary teacher named Irwin.
While the Headmaster is appreciative of the nuts-and-bolts approach of the
current history teacher, Mrs. Lintott (Charlotte Cornwell), who has laid the foundation for the boys’ candidacy, he is less tolerant of the eccentric “general studies” teacher, Hector (Dakin Matthews), whose sessions in literature and life have the boys improvising scenes in French, singing decades-old popular songs and acting out cinema classics. The Headmaster considers the lessons a waste of time – more self-serving than student-serving – and requests that Hector surrender some of his class time to Irwin (Peter Paige), who will better ensure that the boys are “on stream” for the Oxbridge examinations.
When his influence with the boys is threatened by Irwin’s flashy methods,
Hector despairs. Echoing Hector’s despair, Posner, the late bloomer of the
bunch, pines for the self-assured Dakin, who seems most eager to please the
new teacher. Posner recognizes that Irwin’s furtive glances at Dakin mirror
his own. Divided as Hector and Irwin are in educational philosophy, both
are closeted homosexuals who harbor feelings for the boys. However,
Hector’s desires take a more demonstrative form: groping the boys as he
drives them home on the back of his motorcycle – an “honor” that they
accept with pity and amusement. When the Headmaster hears of Hector’s
fondling, it serves as a convenient excuse to hasten Hector’s retirement
and clear the way for Irwin’s quality time with the boys. As the Oxbridge examinations draw closer, tensions mount. And then one random, tragic event teaches both students and teachers a final, indelible history lesson.

The History Boys

Additional cast members include John Apicella as the TV Director, Elizabeth West as the Make-up Lady, and Ryder Bach, Andrew McClain and Edward Tournier as other boys, Sally Pressman as Fiona.  The Dialect coach is JB Blanc, Movement/UK Jack Murphy, Design by Bob Crowley, Lighting Designer Mark Henderson, Sound Designs Colin Pink, Jon Gottlieb, Video Director Ben Taylor, Music Richard Sessions, Casting Erika Sellin, Video Designer Austin Swister, Production Manager Andy Ward, Production Stage Manager James T Mc Dermott, Stage Managers David S. Franklin Susie Walsh, and Associate Producer Neel Kellie, Costume Coordinator/UK Carol Lingwood, Assistant Lighting Designer Lisa Katz, Sound Associates Phillip G. Allen Cricket S. Meyers, Music Assistant Brent Crayon, Dance Captain Seth Numick, Production Assistant Laura Arnett. 

Alex Brightman, Dakin Matthews

Photos by Craig Schwartz

Performance Length 2 hrs, 40 mins
Ticket Price $30 - $80
Special Events Neighborhood Night
Sat. Dec 8 @ 2PM Deaf Audience Theatre Experience -- ASL interpretation and Open Caption and Audio Described Performance: Sat, Nov 24 mat

The History Boys will run through December 9, 2007 at the Ahmanson Theatre
Ahmanson Theatre
at the Music Center
downtown Los Angeles
135 N. Grand Ave.
Los Angeles, CA 90012
Hot Tix
(213) 628-2772

Box Office
Walk-up business hours:
Tuesday through Saturday from Noon to 8pm.
Sunday 11am to 7pm.
The box office is closed Monday.

Stage Talks
You are welcome to participate in post-play discussions select Tuesday evenings and Sunday matinees during the regular run at the Mark Taper Forum. These informal discussions are led by artistic staff and often joined by the members of the cast.

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