By Elena Quach
“Tucson had to wait a long time to see the story of Ada and her engine (it was supposed to open in March 2020, then fall of 2020, before being delayed to its present run), but in a lot of ways, I am glad we as an audience had to survive a pandemic first.”
Friendship, genius, and romance are pervasive themes in Scoundrel and Scamp’s newest production Ada and the Engine, penned by one of my favorite playwrights: Lauren Gunderson. The quick, witty, and eloquent language of the play expertly showcases not only Guderson’s excellent writing craft but highlights each character and their journeys throughout the two-hour show. The play focuses on the life and passions of Ada Byron Lovelace, an unsung female heroine of history. Ada is strong-willed, charming, and wickedly clever — particularly in her genius talent for mathematics. The play follows Ada as she helps program the first computer and faces the trials of being a woman in the 19th century. We see Ada change and grow along with the relationships surrounding her, including a complicated mother and daughter relationship, friendships, and even unrequited love.
That seems like a lot to pack into a two-hour show. But with the expert direction by Bryan Rafael Falcón and the ensemble of actors working as one unit just like a computer program itself, the audience never felt overwhelmed or lost in the otherwise complex language of Gunderson’s work. Were there moments where the pacing could have been slower or faster? Or where the actors lost their accents in heated moments in the show? Yes. But it was nothing that would hinder a nearly perfect performance by the ensemble. I think my only personal note would be I would have loved to see more moments for self-reflection with Ada, especially in Act Two. Otherwise, I was impressed by this team of actors and what they have accomplished.
One of the most impressive aspects of this show was the beautiful scenic, lighting/projection, and sound design created by a team of local artists. The design team consisted of Raulie Martinez’s delicate and masterful lighting and projection design, Tiffer Hill’s heart wrenching sound design, and Andie Pratt’s beautiful yet traditional set design. The melding of old and new was perfectly done and became a character itself during the duration of our journey with Ada. The design of this show was easily my favorite from the many shows I have seen at Scoundrel and Scamp. I hope we continue to see this style of design in future productions. Bravo!
Tucson had to wait a long time to see the story of Ada and her engine (it was supposed to open in March 2020, then fall of 2020, before being delayed to its present run), but in a lot of ways, I am glad we as an audience had to survive a pandemic first. I believe more people would relate to Ada and her story more now than they would have back in 2020. You never know what life has in store for you. You never know when the time with those you love will be cut short. This show had me thinking about what matters the most to me and what I would do for my passions if put in Ada’s shoes. I hope when others see this thoughtful production they will think the same.
You can catch Scoundrel and Scamp’s production of Ada and the Engine through February 27th, 2022. Patrons are required to either show proof of full vaccination or proof of a negative COVID-19 test result in the past 72 hours. Patrons are required to wear N95 or K95 masks at all times inside the theatre.
Disclosure: The author, Elena Quach would like to disclose that she is related to the sound designer Tiffer Hill.