Intelligence

By Helen Banner. Directed by Jess Chayes.

1/12/2019 - 2/3/2019 at the New York Theater Workshop’s Next Door Series.

INTELLIGENCE is Helen Banner’s stunning new play debut, developed with and directed by Jess Chayes.

Sarah MacIntyre, a presidential appointee parachuted into the Foreign Service, has been assigned two wary young diplomats to develop her pet project: New Training Scenarios for the Resolution of Intractable Global Situations. The three begin to role-play, led by a charismatic woman experienced in persuading men to lay down arms.

Suddenly, a rebel group lashes out in a distant country, destroying a tenuous peace. The women’s role-playing becomes increasingly charged, pushing them deeper into the bodies and minds of violent insurgents. Meanwhile, as Washington undergoes its own regime change, their work becomes active weaponry for Sarah’s political enemies...

INTELLIGENCE pulls the audience into a basement conference room in Washington, D.C., for an intense experience of how we code and decode others and ourselves through our imaginations.

INTELLIGENCE received developmental support as part of the 2017 Artist Residency Program of The Drama League of New York, the New Georges JAM and the Nut Island Creative Colony on Governors Island. Rehearsal space provided by Creative Space, a program of ART/NY.

Gripping... Ms. Chayes and her designers use the few features of the room — the chairs, the door, the world clock — to create an almost unbearable tension... Moments seem balanced on the edge of a very sharp knife. Footsteps in the corridor or a knock at the door can make the breath catch in your throat... It’s exciting, too, to watch women take on the kinds of roles and wield the varieties of expertise that have mostly been accorded to men. Most plays centered on diplomacy and global power dynamics are men’s stories... and it’s terrific to see women given the same privileges and sometimes ugly ambitions. We learn almost nothing about these women’s personal lives and — blissfully — no one has pulled Ms. Banner aside and told her that her characters need to be likable.... Ms. Pickup is wonderfully charismatic... “Intelligence” has a velvet-glove grip that’s neatly unrelenting. There’s no negotiating with that.
— The New York Times
In knocking three smart, uncertain, complicated women against each other in a room, Banner concocts a wonderfully satisfying theatrical space. That space is unashamedly political, intellectual and female. Most exciting of all, it is unpredictable. More of that, please.
— Exeunt
★★★★★ Intelligence doesn’t just pass the Bechdel-Wallace test, it raises the bar for what a feminist production can be... Exploring the relationships within and between genders in both the first and third worlds without ever delving into romance, this story proves that “three smart women thinking about the world” can be a commanding situation in hands of the right people...The highest quality... Intelligence delivers a flawless performance.
— -Opplaud
The moment these actresses converge on the stage, the subtle energies of their characters begin to intertwine and negotiate for space and position, piquing the interest of the audience...Brewster, Pedlow and Pickup are fantastic. Their portrayals are distinct and subtle despite their characters’ corporate outlines, and their lightning transitions in and out of role play are dizzyingly fast but crystal clear... Jess Chayes’ direction is superb, creating a perfect arc to this densely written drama and bringing its packed prose to life... Sophia Choi’s costuming gives uniqueness to all three women despite the confines of corporate dress; quick blouse changes and other small adjustments cleverly depict the passage of time with little effort... Carolyn Mraz’s scenic design creates the ideal bleak conference room setting for the story, not taking focus yet giving the actors physical space with which to interact. Although the script calls for one clock on the wall, the choice to include several clocks in red digital letters perfectly matches the intensity of the play. Jeanette Oi-Suk Yew’s lighting design complements the production extremely well... Helen Banner’s Intelligence is excellently written, intense, and thought-provoking. Its characters’ high-stakes struggle for power and control, both politically and personally, is compelling to watch.
— TheaterScene.net