Cutting Edge Play at Road Less Traveled Theater

THE BASICS: The (Curious Case of the) Watson Intelligence runs April 18 – May 19, Thursdays – Sundays at Road Less Traveled Theater, 456 Main Street, Buffalo 14202 – click for tickets.

THUMBNAIL SKETCH: Dr. Watson, Sherlock Holmes’ trusty companion; Thomas A. Watson, assistant to Alexander Graham Bell; Watson, the unstoppable supercomputer Jeopardy! champ; and Watson, a Dweeb Team everyman. Four Watsons in three centuries unite to tell one tale in this playful, time-traveling drama about the foibles and frustrations of the human heart and the technology on which it increasingly relies.

RUNTIME: 2 hours and 20 minutes with a ten minute intermission


The (Curious Case of the) Watson Intelligence was written by Madeleine George and produced by Playwrights Horizons in 2013. Ms. George was inspired to write this play after watching a Jeopardy episode on TV where Jeopardy champions played against Watson, a supercomputer. The play won an Outer Critics Circle Award and was a finalist for the Pulitzer Prize.

The dialogue is wry and the plot is often surprising. The emphasis is on connections – relationships between people and relationships between people and technology. Can people use technology to replace other people? Can technology act like people? Do people act like technology? Many of the scenes are humorous, but the play offers us a lot to think about.

Photos courtesy of Gina Gandolfo 2024

The play has been precisely and subtly directed by John Hurley and his associate Katie Mallinson and their assistant Sabrina Kahwaty. We don’t know exactly who did what, but this is a winning team and they did a beautiful job directing a difficult play.

The production is greatly enhanced by the imaginative work of sound and projection designer Katie Henke. Lights by John Ricks and costumes by Jenna Damburger are fine. Ryan Burlingame’s set serves the play well and is bookended by displays of intriguing devices.

Brendan Didio is the four different Watsons and all the Watsons are the trustworthy, empathetic sidekick aiming to serve. It is the Watsons of the world who give others the support that they need to help both humanity and themselves. Mr. Didio’s performance is wonderfully varied, believable, funny and heart-breaking.

Photos courtesy of Gina Gandolfo 2024

Dave Hayes plays Mr. Merrick through the ages. In modern times, Merrick is a jilted husband and paranoid politician in America, and, back in Sherlockian England, Merrick is the horrifically misogynistic inventor of a revolutionary piston. Mr. Hayes’ pub scene with Mr. Didio, although gruesome in content, is the comedy highlight of the play.

The women’s roles are played by Emily Yancey who gives a consistently animated performance. Ms. Yancey throws herself enthusiastically into all of her roles, but it is with the modern day Eliza Merrick that she makes the biggest impression, and her beautiful work with the exquisitely written end of Act 2 speech is the tour de force of the evening.

This is a masterful production of an absorbing play.


FIVE BUFFALOS: Exceptional quality – a rare rating. Whether it’s a hilarious comedy or a touching drama, if this is your kind of show, missing out would be a mistake!

FOUR BUFFALOS: Both the production and the play are of exceptional quality. If the genre and content match your preferences, it’s worth seeing.

THREE BUFFALOS: Despite minor drawbacks, it’s a solid production and a pleasant evening at the theater. Keep your expectations in check, and you’re likely to have a good time.

TWO BUFFALOS: If you’re a self-proclaimed theatre enthusiast who simply adores attending shows, go ahead and give it a try. However, if the genre and themes don’t resonate with you, you might want to explore other options.

ONE BUFFALO: This might not be the best choice for everyone unless you have a compelling reason to attend, like having family or friends involved in the performance. It’s probably a good idea to skip this one.

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