Tuesday, September 18, 2018

Dragon tackles 'The (curious case of the) Watson Intelligence'

Stephanie Crowley as Eliza tries to program robot Watson, played by Tasi Alabastro. (Photo by Scott Ragle) 
Four characters named Watson find their way into Madeleine George’s “The (curious case of the) Watson Intelligence,” presented by Dragon Theatre.

All of them are played by the same actor, Tasi Alabastro.

The other characters are named Merrick and Eliza, also played by the same actors, 
Gary Mosher and Stephanie Crowley, respectively.

The first Watson is a man-like computer named after the IBM computer that bested human contestants on TV's "Jeopardy!” He’s a companion to the Eliza who’s programming him in 2011.

The second Watson is a computer geek hired to fix the computer of Merrick, a local political candidate and Eliza’s jealous ex-husband. He hires this Watson to spy on her, but they wind up falling in love.

Going back to March 1891, the third Watson is the fictional Dr. John H. Watson, Sherlock Holmes’ associate. He encounters another Eliza, who wants Holmes to spy on her husband, Merrick.

Then in 1931, Thomas Augustus Watson, the associate of Alexander Graham Bell, inventor of the telephone, is being interviewed by yet another Eliza.

This Watson received the very first phone call in March 1876 with the message “Mr. Watson, come here. I want you.”

Times shift, but the focus is on the romance between the computer geek and Eliza, the computer programmer.

Despite the play’s intriguing concept, it doesn’t work well in part because it’s so talky and episodic. Direction by Doll Piccotto doesn’t help.

Another shortcoming of this production is that Alabastro is miscast. He does well as the robot Watson, but he doesn’t have the depth and versatility demanded by the other roles.

Crowley does the best in her varied roles, making all of them sympathetic. Mosher adequately handles the challenges of playing the unlikeable Merricks.

The versatile set is by Emilia Wysocka-Treder with costumes by Kathleen Qiu, lighting by John Bernard and sound by Ryan Lee Short.

Running about two and a half hours with one intermission, “The (curious case of the) Watson Intelligence” will run through Oct. 7 at Dragon Theatre, 2120 Broadway St., Redwood City. 

For tickets and information, call (650) 493-2006, Ext. 2, or visit www.dragonproductions.net.