The play takes place in various locations around New York City and a Congressional Committee hearing room in Washington D.C. between the winter of 1956 and the winter of 1959. Herbert Stempel, a twenty-nine-year-old Jewish ex-GI from Forest Hills, New York, and a genius with a 170 IQ, watches the quiz show 21 in his living room and effortlessly answers the questions on the television. He is persuaded by his wife, Toby, to apply for the show and is quickly accepted by the show's producer, Daniel Enright. Enright encourages Herb to play up his character as the penniless ex-GI, attending the free City College of New York. He is also told that, because of his genius, he will have to be told when to miss answers in order to create suspense for the viewers. Herb becomes the first big winner on the show and begins to see himself as hero for the Jewish people and all of society's more downtrodden. When Herb's success peaks, Enright offers Herb another job and asks him to lose to Charles Van Doren by missing a question about his favorite movie, Marty. Herb resists losing to Van Doren, whom he sees as everything that he is not—but could be—on a question about a movie that he relates to so personally. After much self-examination that includes a visit from the fictional movie character Marty and a talk with his friend and barber, Gordon, Herb takes the dive. Unable to deal with life after celebrity, amid broken promises from Enright and the rise of Van Doren's fame, Herb attempts to expose the scandal. After doubts are cast about Herb's sanity, his claims against Van Doren's integrity and Enright's own mounting offensive, the scandal finally breaks, and Washington hearings are called. It is there that Herb expects to find retribution as the whistle blower, only to discover that Van Doren is elevated once again.
Based on the true story of the quiz show scandal of the 1950s, fantasy and reality blend to tell the story of television's loss of innocence and the high cost of fame. "…Feffer has captured the emotional force of that frightened moment when an entire country realized it was being fooled into caring about an extended commercial for Geritol." —Philadelphia City Paper. "Feffer finds media morality play and brittle tragicomedy in [THE WIZARDS OF QUIZ], telling a good stage yarn without heavy reliance on documentary crutches." —Chicago Tribune.