Breaking the Code given a taut staging at the Eureka.

Pictured left to right: John Fisher as Turing, Val Hendrickson as Knox in Breaking the Code by Hugh Whitemore; A Theatre Rhinoceros production at the Eureka Theatre. Photo by David Wilson

Breaking the Code: Bio-Drama by Hugh Whitemore. Directed by John Fisher. Theatre Rhinoceros, Eureka Theatre, 215 Jackson St., San Francisco, CA 94111 www.therhino.org/buy.htm or 1-800- 838-3006 Return Engagement: Aug. 5 -29, 2015

Breaking the Code given a taut staging at the Eureka. Rating: ★★★★☆

The genius of Alan Turing became common knowledge with the release of the 2014 movie The Imitation Game that garnered many awards including Academy Award nominations for best picture and best actor for Benedict Cumberbatch. It was based on the biography Alan Turing: The Enigma by Andrew Hodges that had been previously adapted for the stage as Breaking the Code by Hugh Whitmore in the 1980s with Derek Jacobi playing Turing in London, on Broadway and television.

Since its initial production the play has been revised and the staging by Theatre Rhinoceros at the intimate Eureka theatre is a compact, engrossing two hours and ten minutes including the intermission. Much of that credit is earned by director John Fisher who also plays the lead role as Alan Turing. It is a multi-scene non-linear construction that has a simplistic but derivative set allowing the movement of sparse furniture by the actors in full view of the audience to signify the scene and time shift. Occasionally this is a disadvantage since the time frames of individual scenes are not clearly defined.

 This staging is re-run of Rhino’s critically acclaimed initial 4 week run in March of this year with significant changes in actors thus challenging comparisons of each. John Fisher dominates the play as the insecure, stuttering nail-biting protagonist Alan Turing who challenged the mores of the time while making a significant contribution to ending World War II and the development of the modern day computer. It was his orientation as a homosexual and his truthfulness about his sexual dalliances that eventually were his undoing.

The play introduces the major characters that define and reflect Turing’s personality. These include his clueless mother Sara ( Celia Maurice), his public school intellectual partner and lover Christopher Morcom (Heren Patel), his female working partner and potential wife Pat Green (Gloria McDonald), his understanding co-worker/confidant Dillwyn Knox (Val Hendrickson) and a young hustler Ron Miller (Frank Wang). A detective Mike Ross (Patrick Ross) became the initial nail in Turing’s coffin.

The work that Turing was doing was highly confidential and his actions were minutely scrutinized thus his proclivity for the company of young boys was known but due to the need for his genius were tolerated during the war. After the war while working as a lecturer in what was to become computer science, a robbery at his home led to police intervention by Detective Ross and Turing being honest about his engaging in what at that time was called “gross indecency” was sentenced to either prison or submitting to chemical castration. He sought the later and in 1954 committed suicide.

Fisher’s performance as Turing is a tour de force as he shifts from adulthood to public school student, from insecurity with Pat to defiance of co-worker Dillwyn and then confusion in his love for the young hustler Ron. Patrick Ross gives a touch of empathy to his interrogation of Turing while being perplexed by Turing’s honesty in confessing to his relationship with Ron.  Val Henrickson is a true professional with beautiful underplaying of the elder Dillwyn Knox and Heren Patel’s shift from school boy to Greek rent boy is laudable. Celia Maurice and Gloria McDonald perform admirably in this male dominated milieu.

The major gut wrenching theme is the unvarnished inhumanity of anti-homosexual laws that were in effect as late as the 1960s in Great Britain that lead to an early death of a man whose work saved thousands of lives. In 2009 he posthumously received an official public apology and in 2013 a pardon from Queen Elizabeth.

CAST: Kevin Copps (John Smith); John Fisher (Alan Turing); Val Hendrixson (Dillwyn Knox); Celia Maurice (Sara Turing; Gloria McDonald (Pat Green); Heren Patel (Christopher Morcom/Nikos); Patrick Ross (Mick Ross); Frank Wang (Ron Miller).

Technical credits: Lighting & Scenic Design: Jon Wai-keung Lowe; Costumes:
Lara Rempel; Sound Design: Colin Johnson/Anthony Jue; Photos by David Wilson.
Directed by John Fisher.

Recommendation: A should see. (Be advised it is open seating).

Kedar K. Adour, MD

Courtesy of www.theatreworldinternetmagazine.com.

 

Pictured left to right: John Fisher as Turing, Val Hendrickson as Knox in Breaking the Code by Hugh Whitemore; A Theatre Rhinoceros production at the Eureka Theatre. Photo by David Wilson