A new play about technology and dependency is coming to the Relative Theatrics stage this weekend and next.
“The (Curious Case of the) Watson Intelligence,” written by Madeleine George, is scheduled for 7:30 p.m. today-Saturday and Nov. 13-16 at the Gryphon Theatre, 710 Garfield St. A 3 p.m. showing is set for Sunday.
Tickets are $12 in advance or $16 the day of the performance, with a $4 discount for students and seniors. Tickets are available at the Laramie Plains Civic Center in Room 110; Coal Creek TAP, 108 Grand Ave.; and online at www.gryphontheatre.org.
Director and Relative Theatrics founder Anne Mason said she encountered the play, which was first performed in 2013, while reading through a list of under-performed plays by female playwrights several years ago.
“This one stood out to me from the get-go,” she said. “It had me thinking for days, and it seemed like such an intriguing puzzle and a wonderful challenge.”
Several years ago, though, Relative Theatrics didn’t have the capacity to pull off the challenging production, she said. The organization has grown since then, and Mason returned to the piece this year.
“With each year, we have gotten more and more effective with our storytelling, more innovative with the ways in which we use the space and stage our plays, and so this seemed like the right time to finally take on such a meaty piece,” Mason said.
“The (Curious Case of the) Watson Intelligence” jumps through time to tell the story of four different characters named Watson, each a constant companion in some way.
One is the partner of Sherlock Holmes in 1800s England. Another is the colleague of Alexander Graham Bell, inventor of the telephone, in 1876. A third is a supercomputer that beats two human challengers on the game show “Jeopardy!” in 2011, and the last is an IT guy in the present day who fixes computers.
At each setting in the story, the technology that allows for greater connection also creates potential for isolation and internal focus.
“It’s a really thought-provoking and intriguing intellectual story that jumps throughout time,” Mason said.
Relative Theatrics enlisted Brik Berkes, a professional actor based in New York City, to play the Watsons. Professional actor Noelia Antweiler, also based in New York, returns to the Relative Theatrics stage for the second time to play Eliza, a counterpoint to Watson in each setting.
“Eliza’s stories are the primary driver for the plot,” Mason said.
Local actor Ryan Archibald plays a character named Merrick.
“He’s someone who really likes control and likes to use machines to maintain control,” she said.
Mason said she chose to bring in professional actors because they would be more comfortable navigating the play’s varied settings and time periods without losing sight of the big picture.
“Working with professionals who already know how to do all that technical stuff very well meant that we could really dive into the deeper questions and the minute-but-profound philosophical questions that the script poses,” she said.
The play contains adult themes and language. Audience seating is on the stage, and shows are limited to 50 tickets each.
Playwright Madeleine George is scheduled to be in attendance during Saturday’s production and will participate in the audience chatback after each production.
Relative Theatrics has a busy weekend ahead, as it’s also taking part in a staged reading today in Cheyenne as part of the Wyoming Arts Council’s biennial Wyoming Arts Summit. This year’s summit celebrates the 150th anniversary of women’s suffrage in Wyoming.
Playwright Leean Kim Torske, a University of Wyoming graduate, was commissioned by the council to create a work to celebrate women’s suffrage. Following the staged reading, “The Wind Howls All Around It” is set for full production by Relative Theatrics next year.