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LA Theater Review

Breaking the Code

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Hugh Whitemore's fascinating play about Alan Turing, the unsung father of the modern computer and artificial intelligence, offers actors and director Robert Mammana a rich environment for plumbing the emotional depths of characters whose complexities are beautifully written. Turing (Sam R. Ross) is a ferocious genius, a man whose grasp of mathematics leads him to be hired by the British Foreign Office during World War II to break a German code called Enigma. His success brings about a favorable turning point in the war.

Ross is marvelous as the tortured eccentric who is consumed with passion for his work but tries, mostly unsuccessfully, to conquer his personal demons. His homosexual affair—illegal at that time in England and still prosecuted today—with a young man, Ron Miller (Adam Burch), leads to a charge of gross indecency. Burch's potent portrayal is multifaceted, allowing Turing's insecurities and vulnerabilities to surface.

Sarah Lilly also delivers a wonderful portrait of Turing's mother. She plays the dotty English matron, seemingly unaware of her son's torment, but in an affecting scene when he confesses his affair, she is tender and brings warmth and veracity to her character.

The ensemble is accomplished, making us forget we are watching a play. David Ross Patterson is amusing and convincing as a British bureaucrat who advises Turing. Joanna Strapp is warm and very real as a young woman who falls in love with Turing even though he is gay, and she proves to be one of his loyal friends.

Mammana combines just the right amount of pathos in his actors' characterizations, and he avoids maudlin excess as Ross takes center stage. Turing's musings about Fibonacci numbers and harnessing machine intellect pair well with his temperamental confusions about managing his personal life. At play's end, the audience carries away a great respect for Whitemore's writing and the cast and director's ability to bring it to meaningful life.

Presented by the Production Company at the Chandler Studio Theatre, 12443 Chandler Blvd., North Hollywood.

May 15June 20. Fri.–Sat., 8 p.m. (Also Sun. 2 p.m. June 7 and 14.)

(800) 838-3006 or www.theprodco.com.

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