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Theatre Review: The (curious case of the) Watson Intelligence

B Street Theatre

B Street Theatre

As the lights go down, and this play begins, there’s a sound cue foretelling things to come – a series of telephone rings.

The first ring is from an antique phone with a crank, the last one’s from a smartphone. That puckish ten-second sound statement launches a story that similarly roams through time. And in each era, we meet a character named Watson. Someone who is trustworthy, if plodding, and always plays the second banana. There is, of course, Dr. Watson, sidekick of Sherlock Holmes. Alas, Watson just can’t solve a case like Sherlock when he’s working on his own.

Dr. Watson: “You have travelled this morning all the way from Cornwall, or Brighton, or somewhere southerly. That you have been happily married for many years. And that you are an avid horsewoman, having visited your stables this morning, if I am not very much mistaken,”

Female Stranger: “You are mistaken on every count.”

Dr. Watson: “Ah, dear me.”

There’s also Thomas Watson, assistant to Alexander Graham Bell – Bell got the credit for inventing the phone.

There’s the supercomputer Watson, competing on the game show “Jeopardy.”

And there’s a guy named Watson in the present day, who in this exchange, meets up with a Tea Party candidate.

Merrick: “And that is why I am running. To dismantle the institutions that humiliated us, and enslaved us, and conned us out of our hard-earned money for far too long.”

Watson: “You’re running for election to the government so that you can dismantle the government so that you can dismantle the government?”

Merrick: “Yes.”

Watson: “Cool!”

Watson’s the dweeb who says “Cool” – a roving computer repairman, who becomes the candidate’s clandestine operative.

Watching this show’s three actors bounce between the centuries is fun, and young director Lyndsay Burch does a smart job keeping the audience onboard and the humor percolating.

It’s an alluring daydream with a clever conceit, and just enough dramatic ballast to keep things on course. Playwright Madeline George doesn’t score any intellectual breakthroughs, but she has a jolly good time spinning this brainy pop culture yarn. I certainly enjoyed the ride.

"The (curious case of the) Watson Intelligence” continues through February 7th  as part of the B3 series at Sacramento’s B Street Theatre.

 B Street Theatre

Jeff Hudson

Contributing Arts Reporter and Theatre Critic

Jeff Hudson has been contributing arts-related stories to Capital Public Radio since 1995, with an emphasis on theater and classical music. He attends over 100 performances annually, ranging from modern musicals to medieval masses.   Read Full Bio