Danielle Tomson’s ’12 production of “The History Boys” defies definition just as the idea of history itself defies definition in Alan Bennett’s Tony Award winning play.
Humbly performed in Sudler Hall, the production follows a group of English schoolboys through their relationships with their teachers and the changing role of education in their lives. Their struggle to gain admittance into the elite Oxbridge universities is particularly resonant for the audience and actors — students who know all too well the Ivy League college game.
[ydn-legacy-photo-inline id=”859″ ]
“These students are fresh from the whole process of applying to college and there’s a stronger relationship to the characters than there would be in a professional group that has been out of school for about 10 years,” Tomson said. “People fell into the roles.”
Having fallen in love with “The History Boys” several years ago, but not allowed to stage it at her all girl’s high school, Tomson began imagining a production at Yale. She said that choosing to perform in an actual classroom was difficult but worthwhile in order to add yet another layer of verisimilitude.
“Instead of just going to theater people, we also had to rely on the Yale tech people and media service people and the music school because we aren’t just another Sudler show going up in a place designed for people to rehearse in,” Tomson said.
Any issue with location was not evident, however, when the actors took the stage. They worked as a cohesive team and were magical together — every single person added. Particularly outstanding was David Mogilneri ’12 as Posner — a shy, Jewish, homosexual with an incredible voice. He had the audience’s heart. Lizzie Donger ’12 as Mrs. Lintott shined as the only female in the show and her portrayal of the elderly teacher, with all her mannerisms, was dead on.
Arguably the most challenging role was that of Hector, the language-loving English professor with an antiquated form of teaching, played wonderfully by Tom Sanchez ’12.
“You gave them an education. I gave them the wherewithal to resist it,” he says when describing his purpose to Mrs. Lintott. He manages to be sympathetic despite his inappropriate behavior, and the audience could completely identify with the boys’ combination of respect, love and pity for him.
Alex Klein ’12 also had his work cut out for him in the role of Irwin, the younger professor with a new take on exploiting history for ideas in order to get the attention of the universities. The division between this character’s public and private self proves to be his most engaging aspect and Klein represented this delicately and realistically.
The heartthrob of the boys, Raphael Shapiro ’12 (pantsless for a humorous scene completely in French), also excelled in the difficult role of the sex-crazed Dakin. In a scene with Irwin at the end of the play, he is able to show the transition between boy and man, crossing the threshold between waiting for what he wants and demanding it.
Alex Kramer as the Headmaster is also consistently hilarious, as is Tom Stokes as Rudge, who provides possibly the only appropriate summation of the show: “How do I define history? — it’s just one fucking thing after another.”