Breaking ‘Code’ to genius’ humanity

Alan Turing’s brain was wired differently. The British mathematician’s idiosyncrasies were key to his genius, but they also led to his tragic undoing.

In his 20s during World War II, Turing broke the Nazi “Enigma” code, effectively demolishing the German war machine. In his 30s, he spearheaded the field of artificial intelligence, formalized the concept of algorithm and was a giant figure in the creation of the computer. He also was arrested for a homosexual act and died, on probation, at 41 by suicide. He could not, in the end, understand — or break — the social code of bureaucratic British behavior.

It would seem a life too big and complex for one play. Yet Hugh Whitemore has written a work that brings intellectual cohesion to Turing’s life and death. Switching time frames nearly as quickly as Turing’s brain formulated ideas, “Breaking the Code” encompasses 24 tumultuous years. The back-and-forth may confuse at first, but Whitemore’s structure results in huge dramatic power.

A co-production of Underground Railway Theater and Catalyst Collaborative@MIT, “Breaking the Code” is directed by Adam Zahler and boasts the finest ensemble acting of any -local company this season.

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