By Jamie Rhodes
WICHITA - Wichita Community Theatre opens its 2018 season with Hugh Whitemore’s play Breaking the Code. Directed by Leroy Clark, the production focuses on Word War II hero Alan Turing. Two predominate things stand out with Turing: one, he was a brilliant mathematician who invented the computer and helped put an end to WWII by breaking Nazi Germany’s secret Enigma Code, and two, he was a homosexual.
Due to Turing’s classified work during the war, most were not aware of his role in ending it until many years later. He didn’t receive any public credit for his brilliancy. What the public chose to see was his “crime” of homosexuality during a time when it was outlawed in Great Britain. After his conviction, he was punished with chemical castration undergoing a series of dangerous hormonal therapy drugs which left him impotent and incapacitated both physically and mentally. Turing died alone and forgotten after committing suicide.
The beginning of the play takes place in 1952. Throughout the play, the audience can expect to see flashbacks of Turing’s life starting from 1929. Although the play does address Turing’s role in the war, it focuses primarily on his personal life as a gay man.
“I think it’s a really good strong play,” director Leroy Clark said. “It deals with the unequal balance between intellectual intelligence and emotional intelligence. He was dominated by his intellect and all he cared about was his research and experiments, but emotionally he couldn’t connect with other people. Eventually, through a friend at school he manages to learn to conduct himself better.”
The audience can see the relationship with his friend, Christopher Morcom, start to develop in the second scene of the first act when it flashes back to a 17-year-old Turing.
Clark has written over 25 plays of his own, directed over 100 and authored two playwriting books. With Clark’s extensive experience in the theatre and knowledge of the play, the audience should expect to develop a connection with the main character.
“This is a kind of very intimate play. Most of the scenes only have about two or three people. And we will just concentrate on the acting and the movement and emotion and so on. It’s not a play with moving scenery and a lot of visuals and stuff like that. It’s just gut-level drama,” Clark explained.
Breaking the Code opened on Broadway in 1987 and ran for less than a year. During the 80s LGBT rights movement, it was considered more controversial. “It definitely shows how homosexuality was viewed. This was a man, who was a genius, who probably saved the lives of 12 million people and shortened the war by two years. His contributions were outstanding and completely beyond the norm. And yet, because of who he was, they treated him so badly,” Clark said.
Clark feels the cast has embraced their talents and will deliver a great performance: “I’m really pleased with the cast. I think it’s an excellent cast. They’re very talented.”
Alan Turing is played by Mark Schuster, while Mark Stafford plays Turning’s friend, Christopher. The rest of the cast includes Dan Schuster, Crystal Meek, Charlene Grinsell, Andrew Johnson, Kyle Hepperly, Dave McIntire and Bob Lancaster.
Breaking the Code opens Jan. 24 and runs through Feb. 4. Performances are at 8pm Wednesday-Saturday. Two Sunday matinees will be held Jan. 28 and Feb. 4 starting at 2pm. Tickets are $14 or $12 for military/senior/students. There is a special opening night ticket price of $10 on Jan. 24 only. Call for reservations, 316-686-1282. Wichita Community Theatre is located at 258 N. Fountain. l