A Leonard Cohen poem, “I Can’t Break the Code,” serves as the inspiration for local artist Claudia Hoag McGarry’s new production, Breaking the Code. McGarry wrote the play a year ago, but it was postponed due to the pandemic. Partnering with director Jordana Lawrence, McGarry is thrilled to see her first romantic comedy take the stage in Santa Barbara and Ventura in late August. “Each person in this story has a code by which they are living but are also having a hard time breaking through to move forward,” McGarry explained.
The play tells the story of Christy Pastence, a widow and playwright nearing 50 and living in New York City. When she meets a young Pakistani-American man, their Central Park bench conversation leads to romance. Complications arise as her younger sister lands on her doorstep in need of a place to live and a sense of peace while wrestling with questions of her husband’s mysterious death. Supporting characters, including Christy’s 30-year-old daughter, bring their own humor and eccentricities to the uplifting story. “I wanted to write something family-centered, poetic, and both multigenerational and multicultural,” McGarry said.
McGarry has written three novels and more than 20 screenplays, features, and television pilots. Little details from McGarry’s life experiences filter into the play, coloring it with authenticity. “I taught in a community college for over 30 years and had students from so many varied countries and backgrounds. I knew that experience might serve me well in my effort to give a voice to my lead character who is from Pakistan,” McGarry said. “And I am an older woman, so the idea of having a leading lady who is middle-aged or older appealed to me.”
Ashley Jones and McGarry’s husband, Paul McGarry, are behind the music, and the cast features all local actors. “I am just really grateful I can do this now that I have the time. I love every minute of it,” McGarry said.
Breaking the Code will be performed at Center Stage Theater on Saturday, August 28, at 3 and 7 p.m. and at the Namba Theater for Performing Arts in Ventura on Sunday, August 29, at 3 p.m. See centerstagetheater.org and nambaarts.com.