"History Boys" Review: I'm Dropping the Class

History Boys

Timeline Theatre

September 18, 2009

Chicago, Illinois

Something happens and changes the course of events. This definition of history is repeatedly told to the audience during History Boys. Set in the 1980’s at a boys’ school in Northern England, History Boys writes history with a tale of a teacher fondling his students, a boy kissing another boy in front of his classmates, and a student seducing his professor. I went to school in the 80’s. Never would a group of boys joke about being fondled by a teacher. Nor would the hot guy kiss the loser guy in front of his classmates. Mr. Rethlake, Mr. Haas, Sister Katherine, nobody wanted to have sex with the history teachers …or any of the teachers. It didn’t happen.

So what happened? For me, it started with the script. Playwright Alan Bennett gets a D. He needs to shave off at least one hour from the three hour production. I get that it’s set in a school but don’t lecture at me! And if I’m not getting quizzed, no need to have the characters repeat and repeat the dialogue. Director NIck Bowling gets a C. Pick up the pace and drop the audio-visual aids. Scenic designer Brian Sidney Bembridge gets an A. Creating individualized dorm rooms as background gives the play a nonchalant depth. The boys collectively get Bs. There is a wonderful camaraderie when they are on stage together. I, also, appreciate that it must be difficult to leave the spotlight and become scenery for the duration. Alex Weisman gets an A for a solid performance as Posner (and an A+ for looking like Bill’s love child). Will Allan (Scripps) also gets an A for accent alone. And Joel Gross (Dakin), I’d like to see you after class to discuss your grade.

The boys in the back of the room summed it up as… Dick: “British ‘No Doubt'”, Bill: “I didn’t like” and James: “Too much hype!”


Avenue Tavern (2916 N. Broadway) was the dining choice for Dick and me. The bartender/server was not overly friendly. Perhaps “annoyed” is the best descriptor. Of course, he was responsible for the patio and the bar so I’m giving him a C. Not great, not horrid… the Avenue theme song. I was told to be careful that my barbecue chicken pizza was very hot. Sure, the plate was very hot, the pizza was not. I love BBQ but the pizza was drenched in it. Food was a C. Because we were going to the play, we offered the rest of our BBQ sauce… I mean pizza… to the boys at the next table. We made their day so I give us an A for congeniality.

 From the people who brought you Ping Pong and Wakamono, Wang’s (3317 N. Broadway) is a fairly new bar in Lakeview. Lavishly adorned in an Asian motif, the tiny space boasts a cozy and hip vibe. Initially, the D.J. seems overpowering for a place the size of a large walk-in closet. But then something happens, you score a table by the open window, sip on a ginger martini, chair dance to the music, it becomes that moment. The moment that changes the course of events. The moment you realize History Boys is history. Wang’s gets an A+!

Leave a comment