We are in the classroom
Eclectic Full Contact Theatre’s production of THE HISTORY BOYS puts the audience in the classroom. No barrier exists between the audience and the action. The show flows through each corridor of the room keeping the audience engaged in its captivating dialogue.
Academia in the Spotlight
To simplify the complex, Alan Bennett’s play focuses on a group of British boys preparing to enter university.
Two wildly different teachers
They encounter two wildly different teachers in their pursuits. One man seeks to give the boys a worldly view beyond grades and exams, while the other wants nothing more than to see them succeed within the constraints of the system.
Eclectic Full Contact Theatre’s Immersive Theatre
The seating and staging are unconventional. The “stage” surrounds the audience and exists throughout the space. The show is probably a different experience depending upon where an audience member is seated. Even when the focus is elsewhere, the dark areas of the “stage” have action. These staging choices create the immersive experience that Eclectic proudly states as a tenet of their company.
Precise Dialogue and Subtle Performances
Bennett’s dialogue is written with a precision any writer would envy. Both points of view given on how children should be educated are fully explored and expressed. Within those broad themes we find insight on race, sex, religion and a myriad of other topics. One might think the play is trying to do too much. However, Bennett explores each with intelligence and the special attention enabled by his more literary writing style.
In addition to the material itself, the show contains beautiful and subtle performances by each cast member. Joshua Servantes is heartbreaking as the youngest member of the class. David Belew gives a powerhouse performance as the unconventional and complicated teacher.
THE HISTORY BOYS has wide appeal but might especially appeal to those in the academic world as a profession and to students.
Photos by: Ian Smith and Katie Hunter
Top Pick For: Academics and Literature Lovers
Not recommended for: Bad Listeners
Note: An excerpt of this review appears in Theatre in Chicago.
Runs February 4, 2017 through March 4, 2017
Thursday through Saturday at 8:00PM
Sundays at 2:00PM
(Special Saturday Matinees on Feb. 24 & March 4 at 2:00PM)
Athenaeum Theatre, Studio Two
2936 N. Southport Ave., Chicago