A play about an English teacher with a title like this might lead you to expect "The Browning Version" or "Goodbye, Mr. Chips," but in fact "The Dear Boy" takes its name from the Anglicism frequently used by protagonist James Flanagan (Daniel Gerroll).
At Scarsdale Public High School, Flanagan confronts a student, James Doyle (Dan McCabe), who has written a story about a boy killing his teacher, one very like Flanagan. Flanagan believes that Doyle -- like the young man in the story -- has a gun and challenges him to produce it. Flanagan confiscates the gun and sends the boy on his way.
Later, Flanagan goes to a party, where his gay colleague Richard Purdy (T. Scott Cunningham) rails against a system that will, he predicts, deny him (as a gay man) the department chair after Flanagan retires. Flanagan, meanwhile, encounters another teacher, Richard's friend Elise Sanger (Susan Pourfar), and the two of them leave for her apartment, where the expected passion fails to ignite.
The final scene brings the two Jameses back for a face-off.
The problem with the play is that Flanagan is not very likable, and Gerroll's delivery is mostly declamatory. His Anglo-Irish posturing is as off-putting to the audience as it apparently is to his students, and furthermore, his character seems unbelievable. McCabe and Cunningham are acceptable in their cardboard roles, but only Pourfar comes across as real, her line readings refreshingly natural.
Dan O'Brien's writing -- with its theme of repression and hints of repressed homosexuality and child abuse -- has interesting stretches, but the play seems as academic as something written by one of Flanagan's students.
Wilson Chin's book-strewn set proves fairly adaptable, while Ben Stanton's lighting, Sunil Rajan's sound, and Amela Baksic's costumes are satisfactory.
Michael John Garcés' direction, though competent, fails to camouflage the piece's overall imperfections.