Wednesday, January 01, 2014

The (Curious Case of the) Watson Intelligence

Madeleine George's latest play, The (Curious Case of the) Watson Intelligence is by turns breathtaking, annoying, beautiful, overwritten, and gorgeous. A mash-up riff on three Watsons--the Jeopardy-winning computer, Alexander Bell's assistant, and Sherlock Holmes' buddy--The Watson Intelligence wanders hither and yon, taking on romantic relationships, deep friendships, sanity, emotional bravery, and the meaning of being human. In some ways, it's a mess. But, oh, the writing.

David Costabile, John Ellison Conlee
Photo: Joan Marcus
The Watson Intelligence is stuffed full (overfull?) with glorious monologues, each of which could stand alone as a short play. A case in point is Bell's Watson explaining why he feels neither humiliated nor put-upon to always stand in the great man's shadow. This monologue handily tells a story, reveals character, and provides insight into the human condition--all in luxuriously rich language.

Ultimately, the show fails to coalesce, and its sheer wordiness becomes overwhelming. It was also weakened in its recent Playwright Horizon's production by Amanda Quaid's unimpressive performance, which paled beside the strength of her costars, David Costabile and the protean John Ellison Conlee, leaving the triangle unbalanced.

But, never mind. The strengths of The Watson Intelligence far outweigh its weaknesses. And Madeleine George deserves the nurture and support given to her by Playwrights, which makes a habit of presenting the future of dramatic writing. (Playwrights also presents many female playwrights and hires many female directors, without making a big deal out of it. Like women are people, or something weird like that! Bravo!)

I can't wait to see George's next play.

(second row, membership ticket)

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