No longer sidekicks

The (Curious Case of the) Watson Intelligence

“I deduce that there’s a feeling of sexual tension in this scene, Eliza.”

“I deduce that there’s a feeling of sexual tension in this scene, Eliza.”

Photo courtesy of B Street Theatre

The (Curious Case of the) Watson Intelligence; 7 p.m. Tuesday, Wednesday; 2 p.m. and 7 p.m. Thursday; 7 p.m. Friday; 8 p.m. Saturday; 1 p.m. Sunday; $23-$35. B Street Theatre, B2 Space, 2711 B Street; (916) 443-5300; Through February 7.

Rated 4.0

All any Watson wants is a little respect, and maybe even a little recognition. That’s one of a couple of premises explored by Madeleine George’s play The (Curious Case of the) Watson Intelligence, now being staged at B Street Theatre in its more experimental B2 Space.

The play, a finalist for the 2014 Pulitzer Prize, mixes the idea of “Watsons”—the integral though mostly overlooked partners in famous twosome teams—with the way technology affects our relationships with each other.

Let’s start with the first premise, Watsons playing second banana and coming across as essential but less appealing than their more familiar cohorts. Here are the five Watsons portrayed, both famous and not-so-famous: Sherlock Holmes’ Watson, Alexander Graham Bell’s Watson, the Watson computer, an android and a mild-mannered computer technician. All five Watsons are playfully and warmly portrayed by B Street regular David Pierini, who partners with two more of his talented B Street buddies Kurt Johnson and Elisabeth Nunziato to provide a whole cornucopia of characters and eras, from the 1800s to the present.

Though the Watsons are a central theme in Watson Intelligence, the character whose story comprises the main arc of the play is Eliza (Nunziato), a tech developer trying to perfect an android that will help those in need of communicating directly and succinctly. Mingled throughout the play are explorations of our dependency on emerging technologies throughout history.

Watson Intelligence is not a linear play. It jumps around in both theme and in time. The ideas are compelling, and the script is whimsical, smart and heartfelt. Sometimes you just wish that the focus was more on the fascinating Watson sidekick angle, and less on integrating the technology issue into every story line.

The set is a creative wood-paneled office that quickly transforms from living room to office to radio station to Sherlock Holmes’ home. Not only are there quick set changes that fly us through centuries, but the actors also change costumes onstage, a move that not only makes you appreciate the multiple characters the three actors embody, but also slyly demonstrates the stage hands who aid in the transformations being reduced to support players as well.