Tuesday, September 22, 2015

OPENING: The (curious case of the) Watson Intelligence at Theater Wit

Chi, IL Live Shows On Our Radar
Directed by Theater Wit Artistic Director Jeremy Wechsler
Featuring Joe Dempsey, Joe Foust and Kristina Valada-Viars

We can't wait to review on opening night, Sunday, October 4 at 7 p.m. ChiiL Live Shows will be there... will YOU?! Playwright Madeleine George and Chicago's Theater Wit are excited to premiere a brand new version of George's stunning 2014 Pulitzer Award finalist to launch Wit's fall season with a time-hopping, comic homage to the people - and machines - upon which we all depend.

Don't miss Madeleine George's time-traveling, Pulitzer-nominated 
The (curious case of the) 
Watson Intelligence, 
September 17-November 14

Chicago A-listers Joe Dempsey, Joe Foust and Kristina Valada-Viars star in George's smart, funny, dizzying trip with four Watsons and eight million human hearts. Theater Wit Artistic Director Jeremy Wechsler will stage George's comic meditation on technology, love and communication over the last 150 years.

George, one of Theater Wit's favorite writers, authored the company's 2013 smash hit Seven Homeless Mammoths Wander New England. Her new play The Watson Intelligence premiered at Playwrights Horizons in New York in 2013, was nominated for a 2014 Pulitzer Prize, and won the 2014 Outer Critics Circle John Glassner Playwriting Award. 

George participated in a subsequent workshop of the script this summer at Theater Wit, which looks forward to introducing Chicago to a work already hailed "refreshingly whimsical...a sweet and twisty time-tripping fantasy that keeps the seriocomic juices flowing" (Time Out New York).

Previews of The (curious case of the) Watson Intelligence are September 17 through October 3: Thursday, Friday and Saturday at 8 p.m., and Sunday at 7 p.m. There is an added Industry Night, Wednesday, October 30 at 8 p.m. No show Saturday, October. 3. 

Press opening is Sunday, October 4 at 7 p.m. 

Regular performances continue through November 14: Thursday, Friday and Saturday at 8 p.m., and Sunday at 7 p.m.

Tickets are $12-$36. Theater Wit is located at 1229 N. Belmont, in the heart of the new Belmont Theatre District in Chicago's Lakeview neighborhood. To purchase single tickets, a Theater Wit Membership or Flex Pass, visit or call 773.975.8150.

More about The (curious case of the) Watson Intelligence

Theater Wit first introduced its audience to playwright Madeleine George with its 2014 hit Chicago premiere of Seven Homeless Mammoths Wander New England. The Chicago Tribune hailed Mammoths "an exceedingly funny play. I snickered and chortled all night long." The Chicago Sun-Times agreed Wit's Mammoths was "the smartest, funniest, most poignant play to arrive on a Chicago stage in a very long time."

In her new work The (curious case of the) Watson Intelligence, four constant companions become one for a brilliantly witty, time-jumping, loving tribute (and cautionary tale) dedicated to the people - and machines - upon which we all depend. Here's the itinerary:

February, 2011. A techno-dweeb programmer looking for love perfects her new AI as IBM's Watson wins its first Jeopardy tournament.

March, 1891. Dr. Watson takes on his first solo case without Sherlock Holmes at his side.

March, 1876. The first voice communication by wire.

March, 1931. Thomas A. Watson is interviewed at Bell Labs about the famous quote. 

New York magazine called this seriocomic journey "marvelous and filled with marvels. In the Stoppardian world of The Watson Intelligence, George's human, dramatic play takes surprising turns." Her other plays include Seven Homeless Mammoths Wander New England (Susan Smith Blackburn finalist), Precious Little and The Zero Hour (Jane Chambers Award, Lambda Literary Award finalist). She's a resident playwright at New Dramatists and a founding member of the Obie-Award-winning playwrights' collective 13P (Thirteen Playwrights, Inc.).

Joe Dempsey makes his Theatre Wit debut in The Watson Intelligence. He recently appeared in Graveyard of Empires at 16th St., Samsara at Victory Gardens, The Mousetrap at Northlight, Native Son at Court, and The 25th Annual Putnam County Spelling Bee at Drury Lane Oak Brook (Jeff Nomination). Around Chicago Dempsey has acted at Goodman, Steppenwolf, Court, Lookingglass, Remy Bumppo, many others, and regionally at Milwaukee Rep, St. Louis Rep, Cincinnati Playhouse, Centerstage Baltimore, and City Theatre Pittsburgh. TV credits include E.R., Early Edition, What about Joan? and Chicago Fire. Dempsey is also a member of the Neo-Futurists, writing and performing in their 25-year signature late night show, Too Much Light Makes The Baby Go Blind.

Joe Foust returns to Theatre Wit having appeared in Spin and The Santaland Diaries. Chicago credits include Measure for Measure, A Christmas Carol (Goodman), What the Butler Saw, Endgame (Court), Mother Courage and Her Children (Steppenwolf), The Merry Wives of Windsor, Laughter on the 23rd Floor, Unnecessary Farce, Making God Laugh, The Woman in Black (First Folio), Kabuki Medea (Wisdom Bridge), The Seagull, Major Barbara (Remy Bumppo), Accidental Death of an Anarchist (Next), Sideman (American Blues), 14 productions with Chicago Shakespeare Theatre, and three seasons with Oak Park Festival Theatre. Regional credits include playing Hamlet at Nevermore Theatre, The 39 Steps, Around the World in 80 Days, (Cleveland Playhouse), five productions with Milwaukee Shakespeare, Kabuki Achilles (People's Light and Theatre Co), The Winter's Tale (Missouri Rep), Romeo and Juliet (River Styx, London) and 16 seasons acting, writing and directing with Peninsula Players. Foust is a founding member of Defiant Theatre, where credits include directing and co-writing Action Movie: the Play and Ubu Raw. He dedicates his performance to the memory of his beloved wife, Molly Glynn.

Kristina Valada-Viars was previously seen at Theater Wit in Completeness by Itamar Moses and served as assistant to the director on Madeline George's Seven Homeless Mammoths Wander New England. Other credits include The Diary of Anne Frank (Writers Theatre), The Great God Pan (Next), Time Stands Still (Jeff Award nomination, Steppenwolf), August: Osage County (understudy, Broadway), Monstrosity (13P), Love Drunk (Abingdon Theatre Company), The Music Teacher (New Group) and 516 (New York International Fringe Festival). Film and television credits include Molly's Girl (Best Actress in a Feature, Iris Prize Film Festival), The Door in the Floor, BlackBox, Shameless, Law & Order: CI and Animal Husbandry.

Jeremy Wechsler (director) most recently staged Theater Wit's hits Bad Jews by Joshua Harmon, Mr. Burns, a post-electric play by Anne Washburn, Madeline George's Seven Homeless Mammoths Wander New England, and that show's summer remount at Art Square Theatre in Las Vegas. Wechsler also staged Wit's acclaimed Completeness and The Four of Us (Itamar Moses), Tigers Be Still (Kim Rosenstock), This (Melissa James Gibson), Spin (Penny Penniston), Feydeau-Si-Deau (Georges Feydeau), Men of Steel (Qui Nguyen), Thom Pain (Based on Nothing) (Will Eno), Two for the Show (James Fitzpatrick and Will Clinger) and The Santaland Diaries. His productions have been nominated for and won multiple awards for design, performance, adaptation and best new work.

More about Theater Wit's 2015-16 season

Less than a week after The Watson Intelligence closes, Theater Wit will re-gift Chicago with its 12th annual staging of The Santaland Diaries, adapted by Joe Mantello, based on David Sedaris' true comic tale of his hilarious stint as one of Santa's elves at Macy's Department Store. Theater Wit Artistic Director Jeremy Wechsler directs, and Mitchell Fain will star in his eighth consecutive outing as Santa's snarkiest elf, the always-irreverent Crumpet. Press opening is Friday, November 20 at 7:30 p.m. The Santaland Diaries runs through December 27. Purchase tickets early, as this production always sells out. Here at ChiIL Live Shows, this is one of our annual favorites. Fain's take on Sedaris' classic is a perfect antidote to too much saccharine sweet holiday cheer!

Next spring, Theater Wit will introduce Chicago to one of the nation's top young contemporary women playwrights with its Midwest premiere of Alena Smith's The New Sincerity, a comedy about love, sex and protest, and perhaps the first drama to deal with the idealism of the Occupy Movement. Previews start February 25. Press opening is Monday, March 7 at 7 p.m. Performances run through April 17.

Theater Wit membership card

The best way to secure seats to Theater Wit's 2015-16 season is by signing up for a Theater Wit Membership. Wit's Netflix-like "all the theater you can eat" membership deal lets members see as many plays at they want at any of Theater Wit's three spaces for one low monthly fee of $36/$22 for students, along with many exclusive member perks. Wit also offers a 10-play Flex Pass for $215 to anything presented in the building, a savings of up to 40%. Single tickets for Wit's 2015-16 productions start at $12, and will go on sale approximately two months before the first preview of each production.

Meanwhile, over at the Royal George...

In addition to its three-play season on Belmont Avenue, Theater Wit's wildly acclaimed Bad Jews, Joshua Harmon's smart, funny new play about 20something Jews grappling with faith, family and identity, has reopened at the Royal George Theatre, 1641 N. Halsted St., in Chicago's Lincoln Park neighborhood, where it's just been extended yet again, till November 1st! We'll say it yet again. Don't miss THIS! If you haven't gone, go already. If you have, go again.

This is another highly recommended favorite our ours here at ChiIL Live Shows. We caught both opening nights at Theater Wit and Royal George and the show is a must see. The intimate staging of a small theatre space adds to the "fly on the wall" effect for the audience. This makes the family conflict more intense and the layers of relationship humor and pain more poignant. 

We enjoyed the fast paced banter from the original opening on, but the production has become even stronger over the months. The familiarity between characters has not only bred contempt, but compassion, and delicious down time between the bickering. The timing is better and the show is now not so much a full on verbal assault, but an unfolding game of chess, with plenty of non verbals and predatory pauses. The crowning highpoint remains the final stunning scene. No spoilers.  

Wit's Chicago premiere of Bad Jews debuted last May to critical acclaim, sold out houses, wait lists, and naturally, a few complaints about its title. Regardless, Bad Jews quickly became a Chicago storefront sensation, transferred for a successful summer run at the North Shore in Skokie, and transferred again for another fall run at Chicago's Royal George. For tickets and information, call the Royal George box office, 312.988.9000 or visit

About Theater Wit

Theater Wit - "a thrilling addition to Chicago's roster of theaters" (Chicago Tribune) and "a terrific place to see a show" (New City) - is launching its fifth season in its home at 
1229 W. Belmont Ave. in Chicago.

Founded in 2004, Theater Wit's mission is to explore contemporary issues with wit and wisdom through new works and Chicago premieres. As a production company, Theater Wit is Chicago's premier smart art theater, producing humorous, challenging and intelligent plays that speak with a vibrant and contemporary theatrical voice. As an institution, Wit seeks to be the hub of the Chicago neighborhood theater scene. 

In its three spaces, Theater Wit brings together Chicago's best storefront companies, including 2015-16 resident companies Stage Left, About Face, Shattered Globe and Kokandy Productions. Here audiences find a smorgasbord of excellent productions, see a parade of talented artists and mingle with audiences from all over Chicago.

In 2014, Theater Wit was awarded the National Theatre Award by the American Theatre Wing for strengthening the quality, diversity and dynamism of American theater.

For more information, call the Theater Wit box office, 773.975.8150, or visit

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