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THE (CURIOUS CASE OF THE) WATSON INTELLIGENCE Road Less Traveled Productions/RLTP Theatre
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Apr 25, 2024, 18:06
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Through May 19
THE (CURIOUS CASE OF THE) WATSON INTELLIGENCE Road Less Traveled Productions/RLTP Theatre

As playwright Madeleine George makes clear, there are a lot of Watsons in the real and fictional worlds.
That includes Dr. John H. Watson, Sherlock Holmesí amenuensis; IBMís near-sentient Watson computer system; and, Thomas Watson who received the first phone message from Alexander Graham Bell.
Playwright George plays with all three in ďThe (Curious Case of the) Watson Intelligence.Ē
Itís a strange mix of a small cast, disagreeable characters, a talking computer and bounding back and forth in time between 1876 and 2011.
Dyan Burlingame contributes a bright and flashing set, from a dark cubicle where the voice of Watson the computer resides and deals with questions and a wooden wall which runs across the back of the stage.
There are also two piles of electronic gadgetry, some of it seeming to originate well before computers.
I have a closet like that.
Director John Hurley has to be careful in the speed of the show because he only has three performers and he canít speed things up too much without leaving one of the performers only partway through a costume change, which never happens here.
You have Brendan Didio, Emily Yancey and Dave Hayes.
Much of the plot spins off from those three and their roles in the beginning.
Hayes is Merrick, an annoying Ayn Rand fan with some sort of professional training who is running for auditor of some small city.
Heís angry because his office computer isnít working and because heís coming out of a ten-month divorce fight with now former wife Eliza (Yancey) and has repair tech Watson (Didio) in his office trying to get the computer to work.
Merrick spends most of the repair time venting about his wife and practicing his campaign pitch.
Finally, he decides to hire Watson to follow his ex-wife and find out what sheís doing.
She finally confronts Watson and they wind up in bed, very, very quickly.
Eliza wants to change the world and sees computers as the way to do that, while spending as much time as possible in the murphy bed which drops down from that long wooden wall.
Sheís also spending time with a computer, looking for data.
Hayesí Merrick becomes the centerpiece of the show, as he gets elected and finds out how complicated governing is.
Itís fascinating that human intelligence survives across the time of the show and data changes in form and in substance.
Itís also fascinating the desire to find some other source of data, on the assumption a machine will think better and faster.
Working in a bank computer center six decades ago, with mammoth tubes and guys in white coats, it was clear things were a lot more complicated than having flashing lights and air-conditioned computer systems out of a science fiction movie would suggest.
In the end, itís all about people and their collisions and what results.
Itís very human.
Thatís why ďThe (Curious Case of the) Watson IntelligenceĒ is interesting and well done and thought-provoking.
Thatís why itís worth seeing.

A.W.

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