Theatre Unleashed presents: Ada and the Engine by Lauren Gunderson
Directed by Heidi Powers
March 22nd- 31st
Venue: Studio/Stage Theatre, 520 N. Western Avenue, Los Angeles, CA 90004
General Admission: $20
Run Time: 90 minutes
Tickets can be purchased by clicking here or at www.theatreunleashed.org
As the British Industrial Revolution dawns, young Ada Byron Lovelace (daughter of the flamboyant and notorious Lord Byron) sees the boundless creative potential in the “analytic engines” of her friend and soul mate Charles Babbage, inventor of the first mechanical computer. Ada envisions a whole new world where art and information converge—a world she might not live to see. A music-laced story of love, friendship, and the edgiest dreams of the future. Jane Austen meets Steve Jobs in this poignant pre-tech romance heralding the computer age.
The story begins with our titular character, Ada Bryon(Jessie Sherman) who is the only legitimate child of the disreputable and widely regarded philanderer Victorian-era poet Lord Byron(Casey Hunter), who promptly abdicated from his wife, Anabella Byron(Denise Nicholson) and daughter to continue his pursuit of earthly passions. Byron parted from his wife a month after Ada was born and left England forever four months later. He sole tribute to his daughter in his writings is included in Extracts from Childe Harold’s Pilgrimage: Harold the Wanderer, in Canto III where he writes"Is thy face like thy mother's my fair child! ADA! sole daughter of my house and heart?". Lord Byran will eventually pass during the Greek War of Independence when Ada was eight years old. Her mother remained resentful and embittered towards Bryan and insisted on advancing Ada's interest in mathematics and reasoning to deter her from acquiring her father's perceived foolhardiness. Notwithstanding, Ada remained interested in Byron and his work and was, upon her eventual death, buried next to him at her request.
Now Lady Annabella had instructed Ada, to find a proper husband, one with possessed earldom and prestige and might extinguish her burning curiosity about the arts, and her romanticized image of the storied father whom she never knew.
When Ada is invited to a party of Charles Babbage(Alex Knox) regarded as a pioneering mathematician, designer, and mechanical engineer by a mutual friend and tutor Mary Somerville(Michelle Holmes). He quickly enamored Ada with his talk and demonstration of the theoretical model of his "Difference Engine" a machine used to calculate numbers using the method of finite differences. This would spark the beginning of a 20-year bond between the two, who go on to collaborate and perfect his concept of the "Analytical Engine." That would come to be recognized as a forerunner to the modern day computer. Ada's significant contribution included publishing a translation in 1843 of a French article of Babish's Analytical Engine by an Italian designer, Luigi Menabrea, to which Ada added her own comprehensive and detailed notes. The Notes included the first printed classification of the sequence of operations for solving specific mathematical equations, and it is for this reason Ada is often referred to as 'the first programmer.' Regrettably, Charles Babbage never finished the project. However, Ada's notes credited her the title as the first computer programmer.
Babbage is immediately taken with the precocious young Ada who describes her “intellectual vibrancy” and “leaps of mental acuity,” as he puts it, as an “effervescence for the mind” and it seems there is more to the relationship than just mentor and mentee.
Lady Annabella playing matchmaker at the party decides that William King-Noel, 1st Earl of Lovelace(Gregory Crafts) English Nobleman and Politician is the more appropriate fit for matrimony for Ada. They would eventually wed and have three children, and remain together until Ada passed away from uterine Cancer at age 36.
Jessie Sherman fire in the belly performance of Ada Lovelace is worth the ticket price alone, her passion for analytic reasoning and mathematics translates so well on stage, you can't help be excited with her.
Alex Knox performs equally as well as the electric and troubled genius, whose greatest roadblock is himself.
But what truly resonated with me was the chemistry exhibited by Actors Alex and Jessie, Their on stage presence together is simply electric, from the verbal sparring to the looks of longing, all eyes are on them when they share the stage together.
Moreover, the experienced supporting cast shines just as well, particularly enjoyed Denise Nicholson as the cold calloused mother who is afraid of losing her only daughter the same way she lost her husband. And Gregory Crafts as Lord Lovelace, I applaud his ability to transform the role into such a sympathetic character, his final moments with Ada on her deathbed are heartbreaking and tragic.
Kudos to the production crew for making the most of the demure and straightforward the finesse in painting the floor to make it appear like the beautiful wood in a Victorian mansion, and making fantastic use of projections and light/sound design to help flesh out the world.
I particularly enjoyed the choreography and blocking, literally transforming the cast into a living mechanical engine.
The legacy that Ada Lovelace leaves behind and her foresight to see the Analytical Engine potential far beyond mere number crunching is visible today , she remains a milestone in raising the profile of women in science, technology, engineering, and maths.
This led to the United States Senate providing designation of October 9th, 2018 as National Ada Lovelace Day for contributions as a leading woman in science and mathematics.
Ada and the Engine is hopeful, gripping and heartbreaking, endeavor well worth remembering. I indeed highly recommend this show.
Denise Barrett - Costume Designer
Rosie Byrne - Dialect Coach
Gregory Crafts - Producer / Lighting Designer
Jenn Scuderi Crafts - Producer / Graphic Designer / Hair / Scenic / Property Designer
Roger Fojas - Choreographer
Lauren Gundersond - Playwright
Kevin Hilton - Video/Projection Designer
Matt Kamimura - Production Photographer
Jennifer Lin - Music Director / Composer (Supplemental Music)
Jim Martyka - Press Agent
Tom Moore - Assistant Director
Heidi Powers - Director
Graydon Schlichter - Sound Designer
Tanya Nancy Telson- Stage Manager
The Kilbanes - Composer