Just got back from a trip to Washington, DC, where we saw two very different pieces about unsavory educators.
The first was the filmed version of The History Boys, an adaptation of Alan Bennett’s Tony-winning play about ambitious students trying to get into Oxford or Cambridge and the teachers who guide them. It’s packed with witty dialogue (which sometimes seems a lot like dialogue), and the acting is consistently good and sometimes superb (like Samuel Barnett and Frances de la Tour, who have the wittiest dialogue and make it seem the most real without sacrificing any of its bite). But Bennett seems to have been operating from the central thesis that no gay man can go into teaching without a crippling temptation to get into his students’ pants, which rendered the rest of the film’s appeal kind of moot.
Later, we went to see the revival of Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf at the Kennedy Center. The initial appeal of seeing it was to watch Kathleen Turner suck all of the oxygen out of the room as roaring Martha, but the show belongs to Bill Irwin as George. As many times as I’ve seen the play, I’ve never seen an actor make George so essential to the proceedings. Irwin is absolutely stunning, finally creating a George who makes complete dramatic sense, embracing unimagined qualities that leave the audience not only believing that he’d marry and stay with Martha, but that he loves her in his own way. Where there’s previously just been a shouting match, albeit a gripping one, Irwin and Turner create a dynamic that’s both deeper and scarier. Someone really should capture this performance on film.