THE heroine of "The Prime of Miss Jean Brodie" turned out to be a romantic fascist. Terence Rattigan's Andrew Crocker-Harris of "The Browning Version" was dubbed "the Himmler of the lower fifth" by his disrespectful pupils. But they were as nothing compared to the totalitarian perfectionist of Andrew Davies' "Prin," now having its American premiere at the Manhattan Theatre Club.
Prin (Eileen Atkins) is more formally the principal of an English teachers training college. The academic martinet is dedicated to the pursuit of excellence, to finding the handful of extraordinary talents among a mass of mediocrity. She does not suffer fools, or almost anyone else, gladly. A verbal precisionist, she is the mistress of ironic disparagement, the unveiled insult, the crushing put-down. In short, she is the kind of intellectual snob who gives elitism a bad name.
Prin speaks also for disillusioned idealism. Thirty years ago, in her Oxford days, she spurned communism when the notorious Anthony Blunt tried to recruit her for spying. Instead, Prin opted for her present career, in the hope that "we could change the world through education." The hope has long since faded.
The disillusioned principal is currently embroiled in a battle to prevent her college from being merged with a technical institution or a neighboring university. …