Have You Ever Hugged Your Favorite Teacher?
By Skip Sheffield
“Take it, feel it, pass it on,” was the motto of Mr. Hector, a much-loved teacher at a boy’s private school in northern England, 1986.
Mr. Hector, played by Colin McPhillamy, is the central character of “The History Boys,” an award-winning play by Alan Bennett, running through Jan. 3 at Palm Beach Dramaworks, 201 Clematis St., West Palm Beach.
While “History Boys” is set in a specific time and place, its thoughts on education and the art and science of teaching are universal.
Mr. Hector is nearing the end of his career and retirement ate age 60, and set in his eccentric ways. The school’s headmaster (Rob Donohoe) is concerned that the school is lagging behind in candidates for prestigious universities such as Oxford and Cambridge. The boys in Mr. Hector’s class are preparing themselves to take those all-important tests.
To shake things up, the Headmaster brings in a younger teacher, Irwin. (Cliff Burgess). Irwin is a radical, contrary hotshot who presents opposing views of history. In the middle ground is Mrs. Lintott (Angie Radosh) a longtime teacher and simmering feminist.
Dakin (Nathan Stark) is the smartest kid in class and everyone knows it. He is the teacher’s pet and even rides on the back of Mr. Hector’s motorcycle.
The rest of the class is representative of common types. Crowther (Jelanni Alladin) is the bright token black guy. Akthar (Colin Acercion) is quiet and studious. Lockwood (Kristian Bikic) stands out with his bright red sneakers. Everyone else wears black tie-ups.
Rudge (Mike Magliocca) is a jock and not the sharpest knife in the drawer. Timms (Matthew Minor) is the pudgy guy and Posner (John Evans Reese) is the overtly gay guy. Scripps (Kyle Branzel) does double duty as pianist, accompanying and singing along with the other boys.
“History Boys” is a nearly perfect ensemble on an amazing, ever-changing, interlocking set by Victor Becker, with components deftly moved by the actors themselves.
We’ll give no spoilers here, but something bad happens in Act Two that changes the lives of Mr. Hector and Irwin and profoundly affects all the boys.
“History Boys” is a moving, provocative work that might get you thinking which teachers most affected your life. I know it did me.
Tickets are $64. Call 561-514-4042 or go to www.palmbeachdramaworks.org.