I haven't been lucky enough to see The Hard Problem produced, yet, but I'm ever hopeful. I've read the play and it does seem slight compared to works such as Arcadia and Travesties and so many other. However, those are mountain tops in the theater and The Hard Problem tackles issues no other playwright thinks about.
With his first new play in nearly a decade, Tom Stoppard aims to 'stretch your mind just a little bit'
The Los Angeles Times.
"I don't think I've ever spent half an hour in my life doing research,” said playwright Tom Stoppard when asked about the impressive erudition behind his intellectually dazzling comedies. [more]
A.C.T. drama tackles altruism, God, opposites — with wit
The Ross Valley Reporter.
“The Hard Problem” is 79-year-old Tom Stoppard’s first play in nine years.
It was worth the almost decade-long intermission. [more]
Tom Stoppard Solves The Hard Problem
Tom Stoppard’s The Hard Problem is an ordinary melodrama disguised as an intellectual exercise. The settings — in academia and at a brain science institute — are smartly dressed up distractions. There are numerous, often heady discussions that revolve around human behavior, our motivations and what it means to be altruistic or selfish. Wisely, the playwright stands Hillary (Brenda Meaney) at the center of the story. Even though she’s a psychologist at a prestigious institute, Hillary, in a white lab coat, wears her heart on its sleeve. [more]
'The Hard Problem' At ACT Is Dramatically, and Academically, Muddy
The "hard problem" of this play's title refers to the very nature of consciousness, and spoiler alert, Tom Stoppard — a playwright whose beloved Arcadia and Rosencrantz and Guildenstern Are Dead have masterfully illuminated that timeless question — hasn't come any closer to a solution with his latest work. That may be because The Hard Problem, which is in its West Coast premiere at San Francisco’s American Conservatory Theater under the direction of longtime Stoppard collaborator Carey Perloff, is unsure if it's a drama or a morality play, poring over somewhat tired philosophical problems and psychological studies from the prisoner dilemma to the Milgram experiment rather than fully dramatizing or complicating them anew. [more]
Stoppard’s The Hard Problem at ACT: A High-Energy Exploration of Philosophical Ideas and Conflicts
The Huffington Post.
Can everything in human life, or in existence of any sort, be explained by higher math and supercomputers? Some scientists believe it can, though that secular grail is yet to be reached. Are there qualities of life that defy reduction to numbers, such as consciousness and altruism? Some scientists believe there are, as do the millions who attend churches and synagogues and mosques, along with nonbelievers who doubt the infallibility of science.
Those puzzles and responses hardly sound like grist for something theatrical, but Tom Stoppard is hardly a commonplace playwright. Since 1966, when he turned Hamlet inside out into the tragicomedy Rosencrantz and Guildenstern Are Dead, he has been charting new directions for the theater.
With The Hard Problem, which is receiving its West Coast premiere at the Geary Theater in San Francisco, he has outdone himself by delving into philosophical concepts that encompass biology, computer science, math, ethics, survival strategies, the value of prayer, the dynamics of hedge funds and more. Oh, also, he didn’t ignore love and sex, both heterosexual and homosexual. [more]
‘The Hard Problem’ is full of problems
The San Francisco Chronicle.
Like every play in his decades-long oeuvre, the latest from multiple Tony winner Tom Stoppard makes you think.
But unlike many of his other works, which include “Rosencrantz and Guildenstern Are Dead,” “Arcadia” and “The Real Thing,” “The Hard Problem,” whose West Coast premiere opened Wednesday, Oct. 26, at ACT, might make you question whether you want to think, or at least think along with the people he’s created.
It’s not that the ideas the drama explores, as it follows the budding career of Hilary (Brenda Meaney), a young psychologist, aren’t endlessly fascinating. It asks whether altruism can ever spring from a pure desire to do good or whether there’s always, ultimately, some self-serving, if subconscious and biological, aim. [more]