Much has been read and seen of the life of British mathematician Alan Turing in recent years, not least of which was the 2014 film, “The Imitation Game,” starring Benedict Cumberbatch.
But that film plays with facts and concentrates on just a small, if important, portion of Turing’s life: the creation of the Bombe machine that enabled the British to break Germany’s Enigma machine.
By contrast, Hugh Whitemore’s play, “Breaking the Code,” written more than 30 years ago, gives a far clearer picture of the whole man who was not only a mathematical and scientific genius, but who endured so many painful experiences simply because he was a homosexual in an era when the British treated that as a crime.
All of this is beautifully — though occasionally pedantically — presented by Jewel Theatre Company in Santa Cruz in their current production which runs through mid-April.
Although the cast is uniformly top drawer, it’s David Arrow’s sweet, astoundingly detailed depiction of Turing that makes Jewel’s play zing. Arrow has a whole array of tics and gestures that make his Turing warmly human. His stutter sounds authentic, his gentleness, genuine, his nail-biting, gross, and his unique way of flitting around the set, quite captivating.
That’s only one of the acting riches in this show. Rolf Saxon makes his character, Dillwyn Saxon (Turing’s boss), so visibly thoughtful and caring that the audience shares in his sadness when they recognize Saxon has Alzheimer’s and is slowly losing his memory. But he is Turing’s mentor and does what he can to caution him against making the careless mistakes that end up costing him so much of his life. (read more)