Theatre Rhinoceros
John Fisher, Executive Director

Return Engagement -- Four Weeks Only!

Breaking the Code

by Hugh Whitemore

August 5-29, 2015

The Eureka Theatre
215 Jackson Street Map It

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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Press Release

Summer Production Publicity

"Breaking the Code" summer publicty
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Production Photographs

John Fisher as Turing in Breaking the Code by Hugh Whitemore; A Theatre Rhinoceros production at the Eureka Theatre. Photo by David Wilson.
John Fisher as Turing in Breaking the Code by Hugh Whitemore; A Theatre Rhinoceros production at the Eureka Theatre. Photo by David Wilson.
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Pictured left to right: Heren Patel as Nikos, John Fisher as Turing in Breaking the Code by Hugh Whitemore; A Theatre Rhinoceros production at the Eureka Theatre. Photo by David Wilson.
Pictured left to right: Heren Patel as Nikos, John Fisher as Turing in Breaking the Code by Hugh Whitemore; A Theatre Rhinoceros production at the Eureka Theatre. Photo by David Wilson.
Download Web Version | Download Hi-Res Original

Pictured left to right: Celia Maurice as Sara, Patrick Ross as Ross in Breaking the Code by Hugh Whitemore; A Theatre Rhinoceros production at the Eureka Theatre. Photo by David Wilson.
Pictured left to right: Celia Maurice as Sara, Patrick Ross as Ross in Breaking the Code by Hugh Whitemore; A Theatre Rhinoceros production at the Eureka Theatre. Photo by David Wilson.
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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.
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.
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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.
- Leslie Katz – SF Examiner

 

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.
- Woody Weingarten – Marinscope / For All Events

 

★★★★ (4 out of 4 stars)
Everyone should see Breaking the Code for the acting, the characterizations, the set, the sexiness, the unconventional style.

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.
- Barry Horowitz – TheatreStorm.com 

 

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.
- George Heymont – My Cultural Landscape BLOG

 

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.
- Richard Dodds – Bay Area Reporter (BAR)

 

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
- Joe Kukura – sfist.com

 

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

 

Theatre Rhinoceros Offers 4 Premieres and a Special Event

Theatre Rhinocero's 2013-14 season poster

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.

Press Release

Season Information in pdf format

Download Season Subscription Form

 

Press Photos

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Rosie the Riveter proclaiming "We Can Do It!"
Rosie the Riveter from "The Battle of Midway: Live! Onstage!"

 

David Mamet, author of "The Anarchist"
David Mamet, author of "The Anarchist"
photo: David Shankbone (attribution required for use)

Alan Turning subject of "Breaking the Code" at age 16. Image from it.wikipedia.org, marked as unrestricted use.
Alan Turning subject of "Breaking the Code" at age 16

John Fisher, Creator of "The Battle of Midway: Live! Onstage!"
John Fisher, Creator of "The Battle of Midway: Live! Onstage!"

Theatre Rhino Playwright Honored

To Sleep and Dream
by John Fisher

Wins San Francisco Bay Area Theatre Critics Circle (SFBATCC)
Excellence in Theater, 2013
Best Original Script

Award presented to John Fisher, May 5, 2014.

SFBATCC is a private non-profit organization dedicated to promoting and serving theatres of all types and sizes in the greater region by recognizing excellence and outstanding achievement in the field.

Active since 1976, the Circle consists of reviewers in all nine Bay Area counties, across various media, who are voted into membership by existing members based on the quality and consistency of their reviews. The Circle hosts an annual awards ceremony each Spring to celebrate superior work in the previous year.

SFBATCC named To Sleep and Dream byJohn Fisher the best script of 2013 at the awards banquet May 5th. Congratulations, John!

More photos and information on the 2013 production of To Sleep and Dream.


John Fisher as Paul and Maryssa Wanlass as Diane in To Sleep and Dream.



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