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Breaking the Code
August 5-29, 2015
A gripping biographical drama about homosexual scientist Alan Turing, the eccentric genius who fought on two fronts.
Turing played a major role in winning the World War II, and he also battled with British morality. He broke the complex German code called Enigma, enabling allied forces to foresee Nazi u-boat maneuvers.
Since his work was classified top secret for years after the war, no one knew how much was owed to him when he was put on trial for breaking another code - the taboo against homosexuality.
Turing, who was also the first to conceive of and basically invent the computer, the machine that forever altered our modern world, was convicted of the criminal act of homosexuality and sentenced to undergo hormone treatments which left him physically and mentally debilitated.
He died a suicide, forgotten and alone.
This play is about who he was, what happened to him and why.
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The Critics Raved About the Rhino's Spring Production of Breaking the Code
Alan Turing comes to life in Breaking the Code .
Unlike the film, with a Hollywood spin and too-clever banter that leaves the audience wondering what really happened, Hugh Whitemore’s 1986 “Breaking the Code” – onstage at the Eureka Theatre in an elegant Theatre Rhinoceros production – is a far more satisfying and fulfilling depiction of the life of the scientist, whose admission of homosexuality in the 1950s derailed a remarkable (if little-known) life and career.
John Fisher does terrific double duty in the Theatre Rhino show, both directing and portraying Turing, the brilliant yet socially awkward character whose creativity, single-mindedness and iconoclasm posthumously earned him the title “father of computer science."
The ensemble wonderfully complements Fisher in Whitemore’s drama, which remains clear as it flashes back and forth.
John Fisher doesn’t portray Turing. He instead inhabits the character’s body and makes him astoundingly authentic.
Not only is Fisher, the Rhino’s executive artistic director since2002, brilliant in his acting, his direction is equally luminous. He makes the play’s two hours race by, he ensures everyone’s British accent is consistent and easy to penetrate, and he draws the best possible performances from Celia Maurice as Turing’s doting but unenlightened mother, Sarah; Val Hendrickson as Dillwyn Knox, his supportive boss who personally doesn’t care if Turing goes “to bed with choir boys or cocker spaniels” but frets about what the authorities will think; Kirsten Peacock as his infatuated coworker friend Pat Green; and Justin Lucas as Ron Miller, Turning’s lover-user-betrayer.
★★★★ (4 stars)
In the present revival at Theatre Rhinoceros, Artistic Director John Fisher (who also directs) turns in a brilliant and stylish performance as Turing, afflicted by a stammer and all the hatred of eccentricity that the post-war years could muster. Turing stands up for himself in a lovingly rendered Cambridge classroom beautifully designed by Jon Wai-keung Lowe with secret doors suggesting sexual and legal oppression. Surprising exits, entrances, and shifts of time add to the mystery, with each actor creating a sprightly and memorable character, parts of the clockwork machinery that surrounds Turing.
We see his friendship with the scientist and mathematician Pat Green, played by the witty and sensuous Kirsten Peacock, whose every movement is subtle, clear, and engaging — a mathematician in a dancer’s body.
All of the actors are excellent. As Sara Turing, the mathematician’s mother who doesn’t quite get what all the fuss is about — math, codes, sex, coupling — Celia Maurice puts in a precise, witty performance. And Michael DeMartini excels as Inspector John Smith, a dour, saturnine, gloomy presence who enjoys twisting the knife in Turing’s heart while “doing his duty” for the British state.
With a cast led by John Fisher (who is steadily transforming into an old-fashioned actor-manager), Theatre Rhinoceros did a solid job of examining Turing's nervous downfall.
Celia Maurice was sympathetic as Turing's mother, Sara while Kirsten Peacock scored strongly as his research partner, Pat Green. As the gay men in Turing's life, Justin Lucas shone as Ron Miller with Heren Pateldelivering sweet portrayals of a very young Christopher Morcom and a slightly giggly young Greek named Nikos. Patrick Ross, Michael DeMartini, and Val Hendricksonappeared in smaller supporting roles.
Theatre Rhino's production of Breaking the Code, first staged in London in 1986, comes at a propitious time, as Turing's name is again in currency thanks to the movie The Imitation Game.
There are some particularly fine performances in featured roles, including Patrick Ross as a police detective who diligently if reluctantly unravels the true circumstances of a minor burglary that Turing has thoughtlessly reported. High marks, too, to Val Hendrickson as a comically addled wartime superior who turns serious when he, without moral judgment, warns Turing to show a little more discretion in his personal life. Kristen Peacock warms up the production as Turing's colleague with ill-aimed romantic intentions, and Justin Lucas and Heren Patel briskly enliven the play with two of the young men who at least temporarily switch off Turing's built-in abacus.
Alan Turing is suddenly trendier than a gold smartwatch. Here Turing gets the biographical treatment in a revival of the 1986 Hugh Whitemore play with local theater legend John Fisher as Turing.
Fisher does an outstanding job capturing the fidgety awkwardness of a gay nerd in a world where his sexuality gets him charged with the crime of 'gross indecency.' The whole cast turns in remarkable performances as Turing’s various lovers, beards, colleagues and prosecutors.
Breaking the Code is memorable for its cast’s terrific performances
A Thought-provoking Production
John Fisher gives a marvelously genuine performance as Alan Turing.
John Fisher also sharply directs this production and he has taken these shadowy characters and made them come alive on stage.
Breaking the Code is a good old-fashioned, intelligent play and is multilayered in its examination of loyalty and national expediency.
- Richard Connema – Talkinbroadway.com
BREAKING THE CODE is excellent
The play version BREAKING THE CODE explores the deeper sexuality in the man Turing.
Theatre Rhinoceros company headed by artistic director John Fisher, who plays Turing, and also directed this superb theatre to bring this story to the Eureka stage in SF. The cast is wonderful and the 2 hour story is clearly as important today as it was in the late 80’s.
Alan Turing the father of commuter science and the centerpiece of the story in brilliantly performed by John Fisher - is a tour de force on stage - playing Alan from his teen years to his final years in the 50’s. Fisher plays this man with a spark that Turing may have felt, he is impressive and on stage most of the two hours.
Congrats to the cast and the amazing performance by the Rhino’s creative heart and soul Mr. John Fisher.
- Vince Mediaa – Vmedia blog
Fisher is a good actor and any show he sits out is an opportunity wasted.
While Turing is often portrayed as kind of a jerk, Fisher plays him as almost childlike, both naïve and cynical at the same time and stricken with nervous tics and a fleeting stammer – humane, compassionate, deeply sad likeness of someone both awesomely powerful and terribly fragile.
Fisher is always good, but this is the first time we've seen him commit to something wild enough that he reaches that charmed place where you forget you're seeing a performance. Breaking the Code comes to a beautiful kind of peace with itself without resorting to any kind of cop-out that softens the blow. It's a delicate and heartbreaking eulogy about the unfairness of the world.
- Adam Brinlklow – Edgeonthenet.com
|The 37th Theatre Rhinoceros Season|
Theatre Rhinoceros Offers 4 Premieres and a Special Event
The Battle of Midway, lesbians in lock-up, Alan Turning, indoors, outdoors… It’s the 2014-15 Rhino Season! This season we present three premieres, three musicals, two dramas, one outdoor spectacle and a rollicking good time! Join us for thrills, spills, and trills! It’s our thirty-seventh anniversary season as the longest running queer theatre anywhere!
Theatre Rhino begins its “Season of Queer Adventure” with a premiere camp-musical by John Fisher and Don Seaver The Battle of Midway: Live! Onstage! and then we present the San Francisco premiere of David Mamet’s searing prison drama (about a lesbian inmate on the day of her possible parole) The Anarchist. But just before the opening of Mamet we have our annual New Year’s Eve Spectacular – this year a one show only presentation of Morris Bobrow’s hysterical musical Shopping! The season continues with the return to San Francisco, after many years, of Hugh Whitemore’s heart wrenching bio-drama about Alan Turing Breaking the Code: the story of the gay man who invented the computer and suffered persecution in the 1950s for breaking England’s sexual code. And finally we go outdoors for a musical extravaganza based on Shakespeare: Timon! The Musical!
Additional play information and season subscription offers are available on the 2014-15 Season page of the website.
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|San Franciso Bay Area Theatre Critics Circle Honors Rhino Playwright|
|Theatre Rhino Playwright Honored
To Sleep and Dream