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Bob Keyes

Bob Keyes has written about the arts in Maine since 2002. He’s never been much an artist himself, other than singing in junior high school chorus and acting in a few musicals. But he’s attended museums, theaters, clubs and concert halls all his life, and cites Bob Dylan as most influential artist of any kind since Picasso. He lives in Berwick.

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Posted: May 27, 2015

DRC closes its season with ‘phantasmagorical’ time-jumping play, ‘The Watson Intelligence’

Written by: Bob Keyes
Actors Janice O’Rourke, Christopher Holt and James Neal Hoban all play Watsons in “The (Curious Case of the) Watson Intelligence.” Courtesy photo

Actors Janice O’Rourke, Christopher Holt and James Neal Hoban all play Watsons in “The (Curious Case of the) Watson Intelligence.” Courtesy photo

The best assistants in history are Watsons.

Sherlock Holmes’ trusty buddy was John H. Watson. Alexander Graham Bell’s studio assistant was Thomas A. Watson.

When the TV game show “Jeopardy” put two reigning champs up against a computer in 2011, it was an IBM supercomputer named Watson, named after the company’s founder, Thomas J. Watson.

This weekend, Dramatic Repertory Company of Portland presents “The (Curious Case of the) Watson Intelligence.” a time-jumping play about what DRC artistic director Keith Powell Beyland calls “those indispensable souls” – and machines – who help us do our job better. Without them, the exceptional might only be average.

Madeleine George wrote the play, which was a Pulitzer Prize finalist in 2014 for best comedy. DRC stages it beginning Friday, through June 7, in the Studio Theater at Portland Stage Company. It concludes DRC’s season-long focus on female playwrights.

“The best way to describe the play is phantasmagorical – it jumps around in time from 1876 to 2011 to 1891 to 1931,” Beyland said. “The play is a loving tribute, and cautionary tale, dedicated to those people, and machines, we all depend on.”

Near the end of the play, Bell’s Watson gives an eloquent monologue about how all the extraordinary people in the world are surrounded by others who help make them so.

It has a cast of three: Christopher Holt, Janice O’Rourke and James Neal Hoban. They’re veterans of DRC and the Portland theater scene. “I’m dealing with three really good performers, who know how to find the comic moments,” Beyland said.

In most of its previous shows, DRC has used simple sets. Beyland intends “to keep ramping it” toward more fully realized stage sets. “The Watson Intelligence” moves in that direction, with a three-location set designed by Meg A. Anderson.

The design team also includes Joan Mather (costumes), Stacey Koloski (props), Michaela Wirth (lighting), Chris Fitze (sound). Joe Boucher, concert manager for the Portland Symphony Orchestra, wrote the score.

“The (Curious Case of the) Watson Intelligence”

WHEN: 7:30 p.m. Friday and Saturday; 2 p.m. Sunday; 7:30 p.m. June 3-7.
WHERE: Studio Theater at Portland Stage Company, 25A Forest Ave., Portland
TICKETS & INFO: $10 to $20; dramaticrep.org or 800-838-3006

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