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In The News

"Magnificent"
Lily Janiak, San Francisco Chronicle

"Beautifully imaginative play"
Jean Schiffman, San Francisco Examiner


"George’s play shows why we turn to our technological devices for emotional validation."
Tyler Jeffreys, THEATRIUS

"Full of surprises… full of delight"
Chad Jones, theaterdogs

 
"George’s script is diabolically clever all around, and it’s beautifully realized in the Shotgun staging"
Sam Hurwitt, The Mercury News


"Tantalizing"

"Stimulating, challenging"
Emily Mendel, Berkeleyside

A fascinating, complicated exploration of technology
Sally Hogarty, East Bay Times


 

EXTENDED THROUGH

September 10

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From The Seats

"Smart, thought provoking, and heartbreaking"
—C.A.

"This was a play that inspired a lot of discussion on the drive home!"
—Anonymous

"Complex, layered play. Great performances."
—Amanda

"Made me think twice about our reliance  on devices instead of making human connections."
—Cathy





 


Humanistic sci-fi in Shotgun’s ‘Watson’
Lily Janiak | August 18, 2017

In the great, heaving throb of human longing for connection, there’s a space in between what other humans can do for us and what our mechanical and digital inventions — from the telephone all the way to artificial intelligence — can fulfill. In dramatizing this lacuna, many artists seek little more than to condemn us for our privilege and ingratitude — “How dare you want even more, when you already have it so easy!” — or to stir vague anxieties about the ever-growing power of machines.

Not the playwright Madeleine George.

These dynamics factor in to her magnificent “The (Curious Case of the) Watson Intelligence,” seen Thursday, Aug. 17 at Shotgun Players’ Ashby Stage. But as it explores the relationships among inventors past and present, their inventions and their loved ones, the show is much more original, humanistic and wide-ranging than mere fearmongering or wrist slapping.

Directed by Nancy Carlin, the play digs into our thirst for communication and understanding, for the perfect bond, only to assert that it’s the very insatiability of that desire, that niggling little part of our psyche that won’t be quelled by a seemingly ideal romance or flawless invention, that makes us human. Yet if we’re cursed to a lifetime of unmet needs, mismatched relationships, George’s outlook in “The Watson Intelligence” is nonetheless rosy. Her characters keep trying anyway.
 
Those who saw George’s last piece at Shotgun, “Precious Little,” in 2012, already know she’s a dramatist of uncommon skill. When Eliza (Sarah Mitchell) unloads her banal romantic frustrations on the robot (Brady Morales-Woolery) she invented to provide emotional comfort, the play’s themes never leap out at you to declare themselves; George constructs them obliquely, whimsically, trusting her audience’s intelligence.

She segues elegantly from the near-future to past worlds, with each of a trio of actors (which also includes Mike Mize) playing a similar sort of role — unctuous assistant, sharp critic, clueless braggart — in each era. Puzzling out the way scenes interlock is one of the show’s top joys. It’s a bit like a Sherlock Holmes mystery; only here, his Doctor Watson (also Morales-Woolery) is the sleuth.

Carlin’s cast is sterling all around, but Mitchell in particular excels. She’s saddled with much of the play’s exposition, as well as its most scientific language, when Eliza details why she wanted to invent a robot to whom you could vent. But Mitchell, with laser-focused delivery, makes each new phrase of that text, no matter how technical, into an opportunity to show yet another angle of her character’s essential warmth — a quality you don’t see in Eliza at all in her first few prickly lines: “We couldn’t have a conversation about anything that was important to me, but that didn’t distinguish him from 98 percent of the other human beings on the planet.” As the play rolls on, she’s so disarmingly natural, so appealing with her character’s forthrightness, that all stagey contrivances of theatergoing melt away.

“Precious Little,” which offered many refractions on the limitations of language, was a wonderful play, but it was so short that it almost felt like George ended the scenario practically as soon as she created it. That’s not the case here. The play ends on a coda that dispenses with all the time-traveling, all the magical coincidences and inventions, and just lets two inept but earnest humans sit and try to hash things out — something that, much like excellent live theater, machines will never be able to replace.


 
Jean Schiffman | August 15, 2017

“I’m going to make you irresistibly sexy,” the brooding and troubled Eliza tells Watson, who sits stiffly and implacably, facing the audience, in the opening scene of Madeleine George’s “The (curious case of the) Watson Intelligence,” a 2013 play now in its West Coast premiere at Shotgun Players.
 
“That sounds great,” intones the bespectacled Watson.
 
Eliza gets more than she bargained for.
 
She’s a scientist, and Watson, we quickly learn, is a prototype of a new humanoid specimen that she’s designing to be the perfect partner: a good listener who wants nothing more than to please his lover.
 
Love, in this very slightly futuristic world in which artificial intelligence has progressed to the inevitable next level, is a mysterious, perhaps unattainable, thing. And do we really want perfection in a partner, anyway?
 
Actually, Eliza’s experimental Watson, rather confusingly, is only the first of two modern-day Watsons.
 
The second Watson, a computer repair dweeb, may or may not be fully human. (Playwright George was inspired by the supercomputer named Watson that won a “Jeopardy” tournament against two humans in 2011.)
 
There are other Watsons, too, in this endlessly complex play, which weaves back and forth in time.
 
The contemporary American characters — Eliza, the two Watsons and Eliza’s ex-husband, a conservative running for political office — morph seamlessly into and out of characters in 19th-century England: the agitated Mrs. Merrick, an unhappily married woman who’s come to consult with Sherlock Holmes but meets a benevolent Dr. Watson instead, and Mrs. Merrick’s not-so-benevolent inventor husband, who is creating an artificial version of his wife.
 
There’s also an early-20th-century scene involving the Watson who was Alexander Graham Bell’s assistant.
 
Thus George mingles history and fiction as this beautifully imaginative play goes back in time to the early stirrings of modern technology’s irresistible attraction.
 
How consistently, the play points out, we humans have been trying to use that technology to connect with one another, for better and for worse.
 
Director Nancy Carlin moves the long and slightly over-talky play seamlessly through its eras and emotional curves, and the cast is topnotch: Brady Morales Woolery as all four Watsons, clearly defined; Sarah Mitchell as the two high-strung versions of a distressed woman; Mick Mize as the two obsessive, ranting husbands.
 
This is a production that is consistently engaging, even if it’s at times difficult to sort out the interlocking strands of the plot.



 

Tyler Jeffreys | August 11, 2017

In “The (curious case of the) Watson Intelligence,” the character called Watson embodies a human version of iPhone’s Siri. Watson is the perfect companion in every situation. Set in parallel dimensions, three storylines blend fluently into one love triangle.

Director Nancy Carlin smartly maneuvers the actors around the stage like chess pieces, creating smooth transitions. At one moment, Merrick (brilliant Mick Mize) is tying his tie and getting ready for his 2011 political campaign. The next thing we know, Merrick is switching to a funny looking old-fashioned tie, as his boisterous speech slips from modern American to Victorian British. He is Merrick but from another time and place.
 
The crafty blocking leads us through three stories and a total of four Watsons: Watson the CPU; Dr. Watson from Sherlock Holmes; Watson who helped invent the first telephone; and Watson, a neighborhood computer geek.
 
The Watson intelligence knows us better than we know ourselves and really wants to give you “just what you need.” Have you ever had a Google reminder that you forgot setting up? Or has Siri ever given you the best route to work without your asking?
 
Each Watson (all played by a passionate Brady Morales) represents our misconnection with technology, today. After all, our cell phones are a part of our identity. We are intimate with bytes of selfies, Facebook, and Snapchat. The Watson intelligence inspires the technology that begins to know us based on our own input.
 
Watson stands for the emotional intelligence lacking in artificial intel. All four Watsons are love-slaves to the lady of the show, Eliza (sarcastic Sarah Mitchell), Merrick’s unhappy/ex-wife in each scenario.
 
As Eliza, Mitchell digs down deep into heartbreak and discomfort—a hot beautiful mess. In one of her incarnations, Eliza confuses love with science. Audience members by the couple, hold each other as she journeys though a jungle of mixed emotions and fear of intimacy.
 
When her lover Watson professes feelings for Eliza, she is stunned and retreats into her tech-cave. Alas, technology was designed to be predictable which induces trust. Trusting tech is easy enough, when it upsets us we repair it—problem solved. Repair shops for broken hearts don’t exist. We empathize with Eliza’s reluctance about love.
 
However, easy connection can be a ploy: hospitality wait staff raise their voices an octave when greeting costumers. The two villainous Merricks use charisma to win acceptance as a politician and businessman. Human connection has evolved into habitual politeness, commercialism, and “customer service.” Madeleine George’s play shows why we turn to our technological devices for emotional validation.
 
Playwright George dares us to get our priorities straight. We cannot depend on technology for everything. The Watsons’ emotional intelligence (E.I.) is indeed a human trait that cannot be translated into metal or software code.  As cool as it is, technology can never replace people.
 
“The (curious case of the) Watson Intelligence” reflects our time. We need Watson! Watson is the connection between us—an endangered spirit. In fact, I would see the play again! Bravo and thank you, Shotgun Players.
 



Chad Jones | August 11, 2017

Now that artificial intelligence has infiltrated our homes (Amazon’s Alexa) and our pockets (Apple’s Siri), we have robotic personal servants at our beck and call, just waiting for us to ask for directions, to compose a message or even tell us a joke (did you ever ask Siri the meaning of life?).This is a fun, occasionally helpful technological development, but like so much in our Silicon Valley-centric world, it’s hard to fathom just how extraordinary this is.

Except for the flying cars, we are pretty much living The Jetsons, and we take it in stride. Playwright Madeleine George attempts to knock some wonder – and perspective – into us in her play The (curious case of the) Watson Intelligence, now at Berkeley’s Ashby Stage in Shotgun Players production. George tackles one of the key issues of our time – how, with all this instant and constant digital connection, can we still be so isolated – but does so in a clever – if not wholly satisfying – way.

Sort of a comedy, sort of a drama, Watson examines invention in three different eras, each enlivened by the same three actors playing different characters with the same names. The first era is our own. A genius named Eliza (Sarah Mitchell) has left the bosom of Big Blue (IBM) and embarked on the start-up road. Her talent is for artificial intelligence, and taking a cue from IBM’s Watson, which famously competed and won on Jeopardy in 2011, she has built a full-blown AI man named Watson. Played by Brady Morales Woolery, Watson is the warmhearted version of robotic – if robots had hearts, that is. He speaks compassionately about wanting to give Eliza everything she needs, and if he doesn’t understand something, he requests she nudge him in the right direction with more specific information.

In other words, he’s the perfect man, unlike Merrick (Mick Mize), Eliza’s ex-husband, who is channeling his rage and betrayal into an election campaign aiming him toward the city auditor’s office. Merrick can’t deal with the smallest of tech details involving his home computer, so he gets a member of the “Dweeb Team” to help him out. Sure enough, this “dweeb,” one Josh Watson (played by Woolery) turns out not only to be helpful but also willing to spy on Merrick’s ex-wife, whom he is sure is plotting something against him (she’s not).
 
When the time period flips, it’s into the 1800s and the world of Sherlock and Dr. Watson. A woman (Mitchell) shows up at 221B Baker Street with a mysterious and tiny wounds on her hands and arms. Sherlock is out, so Dr. Watson (Woolery) takes the case, leading him on trail that ends with an inventor named Merrick (Mize), who has the disturbing notion of replacing his actual wife with a less troublesome mechanical version. Nina Ball’s attractive, highly functional set is full of surprises that help make the time travel even more enjoyable.

Another time flip takes us to a 1930s radio studio where Thomas A. Watson (Woolery) is being interviewed about that fateful day in 1876 when Alexander Graham Bell made the first successful transmission over a wire, “Mr. Watson! Come here. I want you.”

All the Watsons are interesting here because Woolery’s performance is so full of delight in whichever one he’s playing. Whether he’s a robot, a techno geek in love or a famous sleuthing sidekick, he crackles with humor, intelligence and enthusiasm.

Director Nancy Carlin encounters some pacing problems in the two-plus hours of the play, primarily in the contemporary scenes, which tend to become a bit of a slog. Much of that has to do with George’s script, which tends toward the overwritten, especially in the second act.

There are definitely diminishing returns as the play progresses, although there are a couple moments of real connection – once in a monologue from the telephone Watson and once from Eliza, who has a disarming passion for wanting to use the most advanced forms of technology to provide actual assistance to people most in need. It’s a revolutionary concept, and even more than fostering deeper connection between actual people instead of people “connecting” through screens, that idea – of Siri or Alexa or their more advanced progeny – filling out medical or housing paperwork or serving as legal adviser or just being smart in a situation when people don’t know how to be. That’s the staggering intelligence I’ll take from this Watson.



Love, longing and electronics span centuries on Berkeley stage
Sam Hurwitt | August 18, 2017
The Mercury News

The yearning for human connection is a thorny thing. Sometimes people need something other than what they think they want. Sometimes they get exactly what they want and they panic. Sometimes the quest to hand-tailor every experience leads some to question whether the trouble with human connection is the human part. Could it be outsourced to machines?
 
These are just some of the themes explored in “The (curious case of the) Watson Intelligence,” the 2013 comedy by Madeleine George that Berkeley’s Shotgun Players is performing at the Ashby Stage. There’s much more than that going on in George’s playfully complicated story that jumps freely from one era to another.
 
There are many different Watsons in the play. There’s the artificial intelligence that the brilliant developer Eliza is working on, ostensibly as a helpful companion for the underprivileged but just as much to have someone to listen to her. This unnamed AI is based on IBM’s Watson computer system that won the quiz show “Jeopardy!” (For that matter, Eliza, or rather ELIZA, is the name of an early natural language processing computer program invented in the 1960s that used pattern matching to approximate sentient conversation.)
 
Other Watsons on stage include Sherlock Holmes’ companion Dr. Watson, Alexander Graham Bell’s assistant Thomas Watson (who famously became the recipient of the very first telephone call) and Josh Watson, a “Dweeb Team” IT guy sent out to fix Eliza’s ex-husband’s computer.
 
All the Watsons are played by the same guy, Brady Morales Woolery, who differentiates the roles deftly while also letting them eerily echo each other. The AI Watson is unflappably genial, the Holmesian one is eloquent and amusingly bumbling and Bell’s Watson is subdued and formal. The tech support guy is disarmingly good-hearted, forthright and uncomplicated.
 
In fact, all three actors in this play play different versions of the same characters, or at least characters with the same names in different milieus. Sarah Mitchell’s Eliza is humorously frank and flirtatious with her AI creation, using it as the good listener she needs as she recovers from a nasty divorce. When Mitchell shows up as a prospective client with the same name to talk to Holmes about some mysterious goings-on in her house with her husband, her Victorian Eliza is as scrupulously decorous as her modern equivalent is amusingly inappropriate.
 
Mick Mize is entertainingly boorish and paranoid as Merrick, Eliza’s ex-husband, who’s running for office because he’s fuming with rage about wasteful government. The Victorian version adds a hilarious touch of adventure-serial villain apropos to his detective story setting. The fact that Victorian Merrick is an inventor working on a grotesque project roughly parallel to modern Eliza’s is a particularly clever touch.
 
George’s script is diabolically clever all around, and it’s beautifully realized in the Shotgun staging by director Nancy Carlin, who costarred in the company’s 2012 production of the same playwright’s “Precious Little.” The many quick-changes between Valera Coble’s period-diverse costumes are impressive in themselves.
 
Nina Ball’s superb set is dominated by a tall wall with ornate tiles, framed by tiny blinking lights and long cables that are at once reminiscent of an antique mainframe computer and a telephone switchboard.
 
Watching the ways the different narratives in different time periods begin to bleed into each other and inform each other is so stimulating that it comes as a shock when all these cross-temporal shenanigans are abruptly abandoned at the end in favor of a down-to-earth conclusion to the present-day thread that doesn’t really touch on the others.
 
The ending doesn’t quite feel of a piece with the rest of the play, but it’s a resonant moment in its own right that makes it seem like maybe we had the wrong idea all along of what the play was about.



Magic To Do
George Heymont | August 17, 2017
Huffington Post

Let’s start at Shotgun Players with an intimate experience during which three actors portray a variety of characters over a story arc whose implications are nothing less than astonishing. To make matters easier to understand, let’s begin with the premise that Sarah Mitchell portrays Eliza, Mike Mize appears as Merrick, and Brady Morales Woolery is Watson. While that may sound a bit simplistic, the audience needs to pay close attention because the action in Madeline George’s intricate puzzle entitled The (curious case of the) Watson Intelligence (which premiered at Playwrights Horizons in 2013) often resembles a psychological version of Three-card Monte.
 
Eliza (Sarah Mitchell) is a specialist in artificial intelligence in The (curious case of the) Watson Intelligence
As the play begins, Eliza is trying to train an AI robot named Watson (not unlike IBM’s computerized genius that became a reigning champion on Jeopardy!) to bring it up to speed on certain linguistic details. Although Watson is very good at offering up carefully scripted answers in response to certain questions and statements (“I’d like to know how you feel about that,” “Are you trying to nudge me in that direction?”), Eliza’s work process runs amok whenever she loses patience and starts swearing or responds to a phone call from her ex-husband and keeps repeating the word “Fuck.” After spewing such expletives, she must give Watson instructions on which words most definitely should not to be included in his conversational repertoire.
 
Brady Morales Woolery as the robotic Watson in The (curious case of the) Watson Intelligence
Part of the problem is that Eliza’s husband, Merrick, is a selfish asshole who has decided to run for political office. With Eliza too absorbed in her work to care about feeding Merrick’s insatiable ego, it should surprise no one that she has moved out of their home and, in order to safeguard her independence, is not even asking Merrick for any financial support. Unable to figure out what she’s up to (and assuming that his wife must be carrying on an affair with another man), Merrick’s frustration peaks when his computer crashes and he must call for a member of the Dweeb Team to bring it back online.
 
Merrick (Mick Mize) plots to get back at his wife while an unassuming technician from the Dweeb Team works on his computer in a scene from The (curious case of the) Watson Intelligence
Curiously, the onsite support person sent to rescue Merrick is named Josh Watson. Not only does he answer some of Merrick’s questions in the same reassuring tones as Eliza’s Watson, when Merrick realizes how easily Josh can perform research online, he offers him some freelance work shadowing and investigating Eliza’s daily life. But as Merrick quickly learns, things don’t always turn out the way he had imagined.
 
Josh and Eliza soon cross paths and start to develop a friendship. Eliza is amazed to find Josh responding to her thoughts and needs with the same sense of empathy and solicitousness that she programmed into her robot named Watson. When they end up in bed together, the nebbishy Josh turns out to be a high achiever in the GGG department — what sex columnist Dan Savage calls “Good in bed, giving of equal time and equal pleasure, and game for anything...within reason.” Naturally, this leaves Eliza feeling emotionally conflicted. On one hand, she worries that she should reject Josh because he is so easy for her to manipulate (she also suspects that Josh might be working for husband). But, on the other hand, the love-starved Watson delivers the best sex she’s ever had!
 
Brady Morales Woolery and Sarah Mitchell in a scene from The (curious case of the) Watson Intelligence
Meanwhile, in another century, a woman named Eliza has arrived to interview Alexander Graham Bell about his new invention: the telephone. When Bell turns out to be unavailable, Eliza starts chatting with his assistant, Thomas A. Watson, and repeats the familiar story about how Bell famously shouted “Mr. Watson, come here — I want to see you.” Deeply concerned about how much words matter (and how badly the story has been misrepresented in the press), Watson tries to make Eliza understand that what his boss really said was “Mr. Watson, come here — I want you.” Unfortunately, Eliza is so attached to the popular version of this historical moment that she simply cannot comprehend that the Messrs. Bell and Watson may have had more than just a working relationship.
 
Brady Morales Woolery and Sarah Mitchell in a scene from The (curious case of the) Watson Intelligence
Just in case a game of three-dimensional chess seems too simple for the audience, the playwright adds on another layer of intrigue by exploring the random event that led to the famous relationship between Sherlock Holmes and Dr. John Watson. In this subplot, Holmes is a less important figure than the egotistical Mr. Merrick, who likes to invest in interesting new inventions but (just like Eliza’s 21st-century husband) simply cannot handle criticism.
 
Mike Mize (Merrick) and Brady Morales Woolery (Watson) appear in a scene from The (curious case of the) Watson Intelligence
The (curious case of the) Watson Intelligence is a gem of a play that has been skillfully directed by Nancy Carlin with costumes by Valera Coble, lighting by Ray Oppenheimer, and sound design by Cliff Caruthers. As always, Nina Ball has designed an exquisitely intricate unit set that easily adapts to moments in multiple centuries and features a most convenient combination bed and fireplace.
 
Nina Ball’s deceptively simple set design for The (curious case of the) Watson Intelligence
In his program note, Shotgun’s artistic director, Patrick Dooley writes:
 
“As theatre artists, we all aspire to make works that fire the imagination, appeal to our core humanity and, yes, deeply entertain. When you can do all that and tap into a dominant zeitgeist in your society, you’ve hit the cultural lottery. No question is dominating the conversation of our world more than the influence of technology on modern life. It’s exhilarating to experience how fast it’s evolving. New inventions and advances are spun out monthly. Daily. Basic functions in everyday life are now completely intertwined with some new app, program, or automated service. While many of these ‘advances’ are designed to make us feel more ‘connected’ to each other, some are starting to feel a deeper sense of alienation. The very real fear that we cannot unwind this clock is starting to seep into our collective consciousness. These are the questions and issues that The (curious case of the) Watson Intelligence thrusts forward.“
 
Mick Mize (Merrick) and Sarah Mitchell (Eliza) in a scene from The (curious case of the) Watson Intelligence
With only three actors onstage, Carlin has directed this tantalizing play so that its physically lean production is never a distraction from its intellectual heft. This is the kind of play which, after a performance, people leave the theatre gasping “My God, what writing!” Performances of The (curious case of the) Watson Intelligence continue through September 3 at the Shotgun Players in Berkeley (click here for tickets).




Shotgun Players’ ‘Watson Intelligence’ is stimulating, challenging
Emily Mendel | August 21, 2017
Berkeleyside

There’s a lot going on in the two-act, three-person production of The (curious case of the) Watson Intelligence — multiple characters, multiple themes, multiple time periods — so it pays to concentrate in order to absorb all the stimulating ideas that playwright Madeleine George (Precious Little) has to present. And that’s what is so good and perhaps not so good about the play. There are complex concepts, moods and eras presented, perhaps a bit too many to gel into a perfectly cohesive drama.
 
Inspired by IBM’s Watson computer’s famous 2011 win on Jeopardy (despite a few really nonsensical responses), Pulitzer Prize finalist George brings together several characters named Watson, based on both real and imagined Watsons, as she explores different aspects of love, and how love and intimacy can be adversely affected by technology. Or is the technology merely an excuse to avoid intimacy?
 
We first meet Eliza (Sarah Mitchell), a scientist working on a prototype robot/humanoid, Watson (Brady Morales Woolery plays all characters named Watson), whom she is grooming into the perfect artificially intelligent supportive, attentive, giving companion and lover.
 
When her political-office-seeking conservative and jealous ex-husband Merrick (Mick Mize) hires a computer repair guy, named Josh Watson, to spy on Eliza, Josh and Eliza start a hot sexual relationship, in which Josh Watson is as loving and giving as is the robot/humanoid Watson. Eliza struggles with accepting unconditional love with its attendant risks from Josh Watson, although she adores it from the robot Watson, whom she can control.
 
Interspersed with Eliza’s story are two others that delve back into 19th-century fiction and history. We are introduced to Conan Doyle’s fictional Dr. John Watson, who in Sherlock’s absence, gallantly tries to help Mrs. Merrick (Sarah Mitchell) with her husband (Mick Mize) and his Dr. Frankenstein-like ideas about reinventing what he treasures in his wife. Thomas A. Watson, who assisted Alexander Graham Bell when he invented the telephone, is shown to represent yet another distinct form of love and support.
 
Nancy Carlin’s able direction smoothly keeps all the balls in the air, and the three actors are first-class. Sarah Mitchell as Eliza is particularly effective at the close of the performance, while Brady Morales Woolery succeeds well in distinguishing all the Watsons, and Mick Mize effectively acts the roles of the two fanatical, self-important husbands.
 
The (curious case of the) Watson Intelligence examines devotional, controlling, unconditional, and lustful love. That’s a lot to cover, and it’s done very well… but it’s a lot to cover. The fact the play is just a bit too crammed full of plot and a tad talky shouldn’t detract one from appreciating it overall. The drama presents thought-provoking ideas, while it manages to emphasize the human spark in the human characters, and perhaps in the humanoid one as well.



Sally Hogarty | August 22, 2017
East Bay Times

A fascinating, complicated exploration of technology and our desire to connect with others is showing at the Shotgun Players’ Ashby Stage through Sept. 10.
 
“The (Curious Case of the) Watson Intelligence,” beautifully written by Madeleine George, follows various characters through several time periods of invention from the telephone to artificial intelligence. While the inventions are certainly important, it’s the striving for human connection that drives this intriguing play.
 
“Our most cherished objects no longer seem inert and dependent on us, waiting breathlessly in an empty room for us to come and make them useful. Increasingly, our objects seem to dictate the terms of their own use, and we’re growing ever more dependent on them for our survival,” says George in an interview with “Playwrights Horizons.”
 
In “The Watson Intelligence,” George puzzles out the dependency we have on devices, political institutions and other people.
 
George found the perfect director in Nancy Carlin and a wonderfully talented cast in Sara Mitchell, Mick Mize and Brady Morales Woolery. Although anchored in the near future, all three actors show their versatility playing a myriad of characters as the play skips back and forth in time.
 
Mitchell has invented a computer that can not only help people with complex forms but can also listen and provide some emotional support. Mize as her ex-husband and political candidate obsesses over her to the point of hiring a computer tech (Woolery) to spy on her.
 
Woolery and Mitchell have an intense, physical attraction that results in a seemingly perfect relationship. A very interesting development considering Woolery also plays Watson, the computer Mitchell has invented, as well as the Dr. Watson of Sherlock Holmes fame.
 
The action plays out on Nina Ball’s delicious set where, like the play, she incorporates period furniture with laptop computers. A gorgeous old-fashioned fireplace pulls out into a bed and curved staircases lead to an upper platform.
 
Overshadowing all of this is the large mosaic back wall that turns into a flashing, futuristic device but also evokes memories of old plug-in telephone switchboards. Ray Oppenheimer’s lighting and Cliff Caruthers’ sound effects enhanced the overall effect of the play.