Cotuit Center for the Arts presents “Breaking the Code,” a drama by Hugh Whitemore, in the Black Box Theater July 19 through August 5. Performances are Thursday through Saturday at 7:30 PM and Sunday at 4 PM.
British mathematician and computer science pioneer Alan Turing played a key role in the Allied victory in World War II by almost single-handedly breaking the German Enigma code, a very complex secret code that the Germans kept changing every day. Working with code breakers at Bletchley Park, he designed the “Turing Machine” to decipher the code and is now recognized as the father of the modern digital computer.
Turing was also a homosexual at a time when it was illegal in England to act upon homosexual desires, breaking both moral and legal codes.
“Alan Turing was a very brilliant man,” said Carol McManus, who directs the play. “It was his idea that a machine could be made to think, and to think better than a human being. He though that machines could eventually feel and understand as well—to feel regret, love, and other emotions—and wondered if the mind could exist outside of the body.
“Turing had trouble dealing with other people though,” McManus said, “and, after the war, he was arrested for admitting to a policeman that he had had an affair with another man.”
Turning’s story is told episodically, shifting back and forth in time over a 30-year period. Beginning shortly before his trial, the play includes scenes from Turing’s days in public school in the 1920s through his (likely) suicide at the age of 41 in 1954. The audience learns more about the man, his remarkable achievements, and his honesty about who he was. He discloses his homosexuality not only to the police, but also to a woman who had fallen in love with him, and the play reveals the crushing consequences of that openness.
The cast includes John Weltman as Alan Turing; Patrizio Cardarelli as Dillwyn Knox, Turing’s manager at Bletchley Park; Bud Hammond as Ron Miller, the man Alan has an affair with; Stephen Ross as John Smith, a government agent; Joseph Lank, as Christopher Morcon, Turing’s childhood friend; Barry Lew as Mick Ross, the detective who arrested Turing; Pat Farrell as Sara Turing, Alan’s mother; and Corinne Cameron as Patricia (Pat) Green, Turing’s co-worker at Bletchley who falls in love with him.
“Turing, the man who had so much to do with the development of the computer, now such a huge part of every aspect of our lives, was almost forgotten at the time of his death; even today many people don’t know who he is,” said McManus.
“Alan Turing deserves to be much more widely known,” she said. “’Breaking the Code’ sheds light on the life of this exceptional man, the birth of computer science, and on the stark ramifications of a homosexual lifestyle in the 1940s. It is also a very well-written play, with some light-hearted moments.”
Lighting, by Erin Trainor, plays a role in establishing various scenes. Farrell is doing costume design and props, with the assistance of the cast.
“Breaking the Code” premiered in 1986 in London and opened on Broadway in 1987. Time Magazine described it as “elegant and poignant.” The play was nominated for three Tony Awards. It was adapted for television in 1996. “Breaking the Code” was based on Andrew Hodges’ biography of Turing, “Alan Turing: The Enigma,” which was also the source for the 2014 movie “The Imitation Game,” which focuses more on the details of code breaking.
Tickets are $20, $15 for members. For more information, visit artsonthecape.org, or call 508-428-0669. Cotuit Center for the Arts is at 4404 Route 28 in Cotuit.
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“Breaking the Code,” by Hugh Whitemore
Cotuit Center for the Arts, 4404 Route 28, Cotuit
July 19 through August 5: Thursday through Saturday, 7:30 PM; Sunday, 4 PM
$20, $15 for members