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Clague Playhouse’s ‘Ada and the Machine’ is a woman’s timely tale of perseverance

Augusta Ada Byron (Nicole Coury), later to become Augusta Ada King, Countess of Lovelace Byron) was the only legitimate child of the poet Lord Byron (Keith Kornajcik). She was an English mathematician and writer who worked with one Charles Babbage who had proposed a mechanical general-purpose computer called “The Analytical Engine”. It was Ada who recognized that this new invention could have applications far beyond pure calculation including writing and music. She also published the first algorithm intended to be carried out by the machine. It is because of this that she is considered the first computer programmer. This was during the years of 1835 to 1852.

Because of the fact that all of Lord Byron’s other children were born out of wedlock to other women, Ada’s family had to fight against the stigma left by Byron. He had separated from his wife, Lady Anabella Byron (DeLee Cooper) a month after Ada was born never to return to England. He would die in Greece eight years later.

Although often time sickly during her youth, Ada was an extremely gifted child and a scholar in her own right at a time when women were not expected to exhibit such skills. During the time when she was presented to society she made the acquaintance of Charles Babbage (Brian Pedaci) through her tutor Mary Sommerville (Eileen Canepari). At this time Babbage was much Ada’s senior. The two scientists were to remain friends and colleges until her death at the age of 37.

In 1838 at the insistence of her mother she married William King, The Earl of Lovelace (Andrew Keller) thus setting herself up for a life of leisure. She had three children with William: Byron King-Noel, Viscount Ockham and 12th Baron Wentworth, Anne Blunt, 15th Baroness Wentworth and Ralph King-Milbanke, 2nd Earl of Lovelace. Because of her social stature she was able to pursue her interest in mathematics and science. She also was able to make contact with notable scientists of the day such as Andrew Crosse, Sir David Brewster, Charles Wheatstone, Michael Faraday and the author Charles Dickens.

Currently on stage at Clague Playhouse is “Ada and the Engine” that goes into great detail about the life of this mathematical genius. The show highlights the social stigma attached to a father who had abandoned the family, to the strength Ada needed to fight against the gender prejudice of the times. It is a portrait of life during the Victorian era.

As for the Clague Playhouse production it has its weak and strong points. On the negative side are the terrible English accents. There should be a law in America where natural born American actors are not permitted to speak with a British accent on stage under any circumstances. It simply does not work. The computer generated music that is featured at the end of the play is lacking in theme, melody and reason and could well have been eliminated to shorten an already long sit of two hours. Likewise the after death meeting of Ada and Byron does nothing to resolve their trouble relationship. We recognize Byron as a rake and do not need to have this idea reinforced. As for DeLee Cooper as Lady Anabella Byron, she gives a reasonable performance but seems too young (and nice) for the roll. I would have preferred someone older and meaner but that is just me.

On the plus side, the costuming by Dred Geib and Sydney DeMatteis-Geib is exquisite as well as the expertly done stage set by Ron Newell. The lighting design by Lance Switzer is very well accomplished. Chairs, tables and divans are smoothly brought in and out with little fuss. Brian Pedaci as Charles Babbage gives the strongest performance of the cast. Nicole Coury as Ada works hard at her role but it is hard to understand all of the dialogue with the overly done accent. Andrew Keller as Lord Lovelace seems to have been born without any resemblance to a back bone. Whether this is done with intent or simply the interpretation of the role is anyone’s guess. He does strike one as a believable figure none the less. Keith Kornajcik as Byron has the looks and swagger needed for the roll. Eileen Canepari as Mary Sommerville fills her role well.

This fascinating period piece gives us an intimate portrait of Victorian era life and the trials and tribulations suffered by women through all strata of society. With this being Women History Month this is a closer look at the unsung heroes whose hard work set the stage for later advances in women’s rights.

“Ada and the Machine” will be on the Clague Playhouse stage, 1371 Clague Road, Westlake, Ohio through April 8, 2023. For more information and to purchase tickets go to or call (440) 331-0403.


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Who is Mark Horning?

Over the course of my life I have worked a variety of jobs including newspapers, retail camera sales and photography. Eight years ago I embarked on yet another career as writer. This included articles concerning sports and cultural events in Cleveland, Ohio as well reviews of the many theatrical productions around town. These days are spent photographing professional dance groups, theater companies and various galas and festivals as well as attending various stage performances and posting reviews about them.  

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