The (curious case of the) Watson Intelligence. Playwrights Horizons (see Off Broadway). By Madeleine George. Directed by Leigh Silverman. With John Ellison Conlee, David Costabile and Amanda Quaid. Running time: 2hrs 20mins. One intermission.
The (curious case of the) Watson Intelligence: in brief
John Ellison Conlee plays four different Watsons—Holmes's sidekick, Bell's engineer, Jeopardy! champion computer and lovelorn geek—in a fanciful transhistorical play by Madeleine George (The Zero Hour). Leigh SIlverman (Well) directs a cast that also features Amanda Quaid and David Costabile.
The (curious case of the) Watson Intelligence: theater review by David Cote
Selflessness is not a quality most playwrights imbue in their protagonists. Stage creations should be driven, pushy, bullish—the better to drum up conflict and laughs. And yet Madeleine George’s sweet and twisty The (curious case of the) Watson Intelligence keeps the seriocomic juices flowing with a title character (or rather, characters) who lives to serve. Watson (Conlee) recurs in various epochs—Alexander Graham Bell’s assistant, Sherlock Holmes’s sidekick, a computer program and a modern-day IT dude. In each incarnation, the affable fellow simply wants to help.
George’s Cloud Atlas–like mirror structure is a refreshingly whimsical delivery system for inquiries macro and micro, digging into both the difficulty of effecting lasting social change and the moral reckoning of a bitterly split couple (Quaid, Costabile). She juggles several deep themes with grace, wit and intellectual verve (aided by three versatile actors). Let’s just hope George doesn’t let success go to her head.—Theater review by David Cote
THE BOTTOM LINE A time-tripping fantasy finds tender humor in geniuses and their helpers.
Follow David Cote on Twitter: @davidcote
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