San Diego outdoors: Aida, animal tracks, rugby, SUP with dogs, 1800s Old Town, waterski and wakeboard
Indoors: WWI San Diego, complete history of theater, Christopher Plummer, pickles, Van Gogh-Gaughin, Martina McBride
11:50 a.m., June 28
What's the point of education? To learn basic facts, the W's of journalism? To allow the mind to roam? Or just to pass tests and make school superintendents look good? Alan Bennet's pedagogical tapestry raises these and other questions. It's 1983. The sixth form students at Cutler's School for Boys dream of going to Oxford or Cambridge (aka "Oxbridge"). Acceptance not only means an automatic grant from the state (no longer the case), it also confers instant status on the candidate - and Cutler's ambitious headmaster. At issue: how best to prepare the boys for Oxbridge scholarship exams in history? Though no fixated Mrs. Grundy about them, Mrs. Lintott teaches the facts. Hector, a loose cannon (even sexually, since he gropes his students on his motorcycle), defines himself as the antidote to rote learning. He urges a personal engagement with ideas: don't settle, soar. Enter Irwin, a young teacher hired to counter Hector. Irwin's all about passing the exam, but in a showy way: take the other side of a question; flash with the facts. History Boys may sound dry and theoretical, but it, and Cygnet Theatre's staging, is anything but. In humorous and touching ways, Bennett traces the growth of eight boys who, along with defining an approach to exams, are in the process of becoming themselves. Cygnet's opening night had an uneven feel, especially dead spots, upstage right, and slowly evolving scenes (especially when compared to the frantic, and funny, ways director Sean Murray invented for scene changes). But by act 2, the cast settled in and it became clear why History Boys won a Tony Award and other honors. Tom Stephenson's a treat throughout as red-faced, quirky Hector. As Irwin, Brian Mackey's cool, at times smug deliveries make the young prof appropriately "meretricious." Tom Zohar heads a strong ensemble cast as Posner, who sings, plays piano, opens up his heart, but never quite fits in with his mates. Shirley Pierson's costumes invoke order (dark brown sport coats and slacks) and chaos (shoes and schoolbags range from the elegant to the tawdry). Andrew Hull's minimalist set, expertly lit by Eric Lotze, includes a river of historical graffiti.