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Breaking the Code

The setting is purely functional: A small desk, a wicker loveseat and various nondescript chairs line the rear of the set. It's perfect. Hugh Whitemore's script is so wonderfully literate and well-constructed, it needs no adornment. As each character completes a scene, he or she simply retires upstage to listen intently to the episode being played out before them. It appears the characters do not want to miss a word, and that concentrated involvement is transmitted to the audience.

Cast:
Cast: Dennis Christopher (Alan Turing), Lenny Wolpe (Mick Ross), Michael Reisz (Christopher Marcom), Jill Andre (Sara Turing), Jeremy Sisto (Ron Miller), Brian Carpenter (John Smith), John Ronald Dennis (Dillwyn Knox), Katy Selverstone (Pat Green), Charles Venturi (Nikos). In "Breaking the Code," the life and career of one of this century's most intriguing personalities, British mathematician Alan Turing, is presented as casually as if a group of friends had gathered to reminisce about a departed loved one. The Blank Theatre Company has created an absorbing production under the inspired guidance of director Daniel Henning that features a brilliant, multidimensional performance by Dennis Christopher as Turing.

The setting is purely functional: A small desk, a wicker loveseat and various nondescript chairs line the rear of the set. It’s perfect. Hugh Whitemore’s script is so wonderfully literate and well-constructed, it needs no adornment. As each character completes a scene, he or she simply retires upstage to listen intently to the episode being played out before them. It appears the characters do not want to miss a word, and that concentrated involvement is transmitted to the audience.

TX: TX:The Blank Theatre Company presents a play in two acts by Hugh Whitemore, based on the book “Alan Turing: The Enigma” by Andrew Hodges. Directed by Daniel Henning; The result is a fascinating feeling of intimacy with and caring for this man, as the ensemble chronicles Turing’s life through his days as a stuttering schoolboy at Sherbourne Academy (1928), his landmark theories on computable numbers (1937), his World War II work with the British Foreign Office that led to the breaking of Germany’s infamous Enigma U-boat code, his postwar artificial intelligence research that led to the development of the modern computer (1948), his arrest for violating British homosexuality statutes (1952) and his suicide at age 41 (1954).

Christopher truly inhabits his character, presenting Turing as a marvelous study in contradictions. While painfully shy in his everyday social dealings, he is ravenously aggressive and out front with his homosexuality.

And though he exhibits a far-ranging, forward-thinking brilliance in almost all matters theoretical, he lacks even the most rudimentary common sense during the police investigation that leads to his arrest for gross indecency.

The supporting cast is no less credible. Jill Andre as Alan’s mother, Sara, is every bit the proper British matron, displaying the concern and pain wrought by never being truly able to know her own child. Katy Selverstone’s Pat Green (Turing’s Foreign Office assistant) is such a study in beauty, wit and intelligence, one can’t help but root for her as she attempts to make Turing heterosexual.

Lenny Wolpe’s understated police inspector Ross is like a friendly python, gently squeezing the truth from Turing. Jeremy Sisto is properly callow and sensual as the young hustler who leads Turing to his downfall.

And, whether intended or not, John Ronald Dennis is hilariously reminiscent of comic actor Ed Wynn in his portrayal of Turing’s Foreign Office mentor, Dillwyn Knox.

Breaking the Code

Production: Breaking the Code (2nd Stage Theatre, Hollywood; 49 seats; $ 22 top)

Crew: Set, Henning; lighting, Jonathan T. Hagans. Opened April 26, 1996; reviewed April 28; runs through June 2. Running time: 2 hours, 50 min.

With: Cast: Dennis Christopher (Alan Turing), Lenny Wolpe (Mick Ross), Michael Reisz (Christopher Marcom), Jill Andre (Sara Turing), Jeremy Sisto (Ron Miller), Brian Carpenter (John Smith), John Ronald Dennis (Dillwyn Knox), Katy Selverstone (Pat Green), Charles Venturi (Nikos). In "Breaking the Code," the life and career of one of this century's most intriguing personalities, British mathematician Alan Turing, is presented as casually as if a group of friends had gathered to reminisce about a departed loved one. The Blank Theatre Company has created an absorbing production under the inspired guidance of director Daniel Henning that features a brilliant, multidimensional performance by Dennis Christopher as Turing.

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