“Breaking the Code,” Strawberry Theatre Workshop at the Erickson Theatre

I had the great good fortune to see this show twice in one weekend.

Strawberry Theatre Workshop has some marketing geniuses, let me tell you. First, they had a $10 ticket sale over Labor Day Weekend. Being fairly poor, I took advantage of the sale to, at long last, see my first production from this group. I went on Friday night, and as with all shows mentioned it on my Twitter and Facebook accounts.

The show grabbed me, hard. I told my boyfriend when I got home that he needed to come see this show. I bought tickets for Saturday night.

Shortly thereafter, I got an email from the marketing director, addressed to many Seattle bloggers, offering comp tickets. Apparently STW keeps up with who mentions their shows and who doesn’t. I jumped on it, and got my order replaced with comps. Amazing timing!

I should say, at this point, that although I enjoyed the show, the free tickets don’t really affect my review. I have a huge amount of respect for how this company operates, and how they treat their audience as well as their artists. But if I hadn’t liked the show, I wouldn’t have taken the comps. So it wasn’t a bribe.

I loved this show. Yes, it is a truly heart-breaking story — the story of Alan Turing, the English scientist responsible for breaking the U-Boat code, and one of the handful of people directly responsible for winning WWII. He was beyond brilliant, and should have, from that day forth, been celebrated as a global hero. Instead, like many who suffer from 15 minutes of fame, he fell into obscurity, in a research job not nearly as exciting as his work during the war. That wouldn’t be too tragic, if that was all, but it was also discovered that he was a homosexual. In the McCarthy era.

Turing chose chemical castration, given the choice between that or life in prison. He fell into depression and committed suicide 2 years later.

I mentioned, after the first time I saw the show, that what happened to Alan Turing is almost unforgivable. I did not mention specifically why I use the word “almost.” I write “almost” because this play, and this particular production of this particular play, portrays Turing as an amazing human being — immeasurably genius, deeply in love with the wonders of existence, imperfect but complete. Although the show jumps around chronologically, Turing is not portrayed as pitiful, the whipping post of the world. Instead, Bradford Farwell’s Turing glows when he speaks of obscure mathematics, how the Fibonacci sequence ties into growth patterns, how machines may one day be able to learn. His fascination with numbers ties directly into the fiber of existence. Alan Turing, in this play, is the kind of person whose wonder at every tiny detail makes you, the audience member, want to celebrate such exquisite detail with him. It is the loss of this wonder and amazement that is the tragedy.

That a culture can so callously destroy its shining individuals for a harmless accident of biology is almost unforgivable. That that same culture can, 50 years later, finally start producing shows with this level of beauty and catharsis is what allows healing to begin.

Of course, the show is not perfect. What play is? Not all the actors had their accents 100% (between the fact that I lived in England briefly, and have been watching a lot of BritComs lately, I picked up on that pretty early in the show. I don’t know how noticeable it would have been otherwise). Some actors are better than others. The blocking during scene changes was a touch heavy-handed (would I have blocked it better? Probably not). The play went on for at least one scene too long — I felt that Turing’s final monologue deflated the balloon, while his mother’s final sentence, “He had everything to live for” really summed up the tragedy of the play, but my boyfriend thinks the final scene should have been Turing with his Grecian lover, and the bit featuring his mother seemed like an afterthought. We both agreed, after some argument, that a play that can allow its audience to find its own tragedy and catharsis, subjectively, individually, is a pretty amazing play.

Bring a box of tissues with you, but you must go see this show. You will remember your own sense of wonder at the world, and where it comes from. You will see that in other people as you take the bus home, or go to work the next day. You will start to see how fearful our culture is, and how silly are the fantastical monsters under our beds. You might even want to do something about it, even if that only manifests itself in being kinder to, more understanding of, those around you.

It is a piece of theatre that might actually change some minds.

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