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The Hard Problem

From 111 member  reviews
Members say: Intelligent, Thought-provoking, Absorbing, Clever, Great acting

About the show

LCT presents Tom Stoppard's first new play in ten years, a witty and dramatic exploration of the "hard problem" that is human consciousness. Directed by Tony winner Jack O'Brien ("The Coast of Utopia.") More…

"The Hard Problem" introduces a young woman, Hilary, a psychology student who is newly employed as a research assistant at a neuroscience think-tank financed by a hedge-fund billionaire. He believes the brain and the ability to map and understand it are the key to predicting financial patterns, human behavior and more. But as Hilary’s career advances she and her colleagues struggle with what scientists call ‘the hard problem’ which asks: if the brain is made of nothing but facts, what is consciousness? For Hilary the possibility of genuine altruism, without a hidden Darwinian self-interest, depends on the answer. Meanwhile she is nursing a private sorrow. She needs a miracle and prays for one every day. 

Member Reviews (111)


Intelligent, Thought-provoking, Absorbing, Clever, Great acting
Avg Score

Disappointing, Indulgent, Overrated, Clever

See it if If you like some good acting or a story that only touches the surface.

Don't see it if If you want a deep, meaningful production. Characters did not move me in this directed play.

Absorbing, Intelligent, Thought-provoking, Challenging, Dialectic

See it if you want a gripping play about altruism vs egoism, religion vs science, technology vs humanity, philosophy vs theory, & seeking forgiveness.

Don't see it if you're turned off by gratuitous (albeit brief) nudity; you don't like Stoppard's philosophical polemics & focus on intellect over emotion.

Ambitious, Great writing, Great acting, Intelligent, Thought-provoking

See it if Innate or through action...what is inherently a person of merit? Stoppard uses actors for discourse & debate. Cerebral w/ cast doing best.

Don't see it if Rubik's cube. So intelligent, but if you don't live there, this will be a troublesome night out. Playwright deserves credit for this attempt

Deals w the hard problem: what is the source of consciousness, the brain or something beyond that (e.g., god)? intriguing but far from stoppard's best

See it if in typical Stoppard fashion sets forth w elegance a major intellectual problem; O'Brien's direction is comparably elegant

Don't see it if Stoppard has NOT found a convincing theatrical vehicle to bring alive this perennial problem; more a forum for vigorous debate

Cerebral, more like a lecture than a play, Disappointing, Indulgent, Minimalistic set

See it if You want to see a Tom Stoppard play performed at Lincoln Center (I did). I expected more. Interesting issue but not well served by this play

Don't see it if You want to see a real play. This just seemed like acting exercises and a philosophical discussion. Artificial dialogue, not conversational.

Also I will say that my husband really enjoyed it. I wasn't totally bored b... Read more Read less

Absorbing, Thought-provoking, Challenging, Dense, Intellectual

See it if you are interested in conciousness vs. the brain - is it the same, different, mutually exclusive? Where does humanity, faith & love fit in?

Don't see it if you're more interested in action than ideas and lots of talk; Stoppard can be challenging to follow; the play is good but not his best.

Intelligent, Intense, Clever, Slow, Thought-provoking

See it if Intelligent arguments about human consciousness. I found it hard to follow in the beginning. This play needs to be seen twice to appreciate.

Don't see it if You are tired after seeing a matinee the same day. Stoppard's plays demand full attention. The large cast was difficult to sort out.

Also Sorry that I was not more rested, and on my toes before watching this ... Read more Read less

Clever, Great acting, Great staging, Thought-provoking

See it if You like cerebral plays that center completely around THE BRAIN. Good acting, staging, and fun characters

Don't see it if You don't like plays where you really have to concentrate on the ideas they are trying to get across. Or 10 minute long diatribes.

Absorbing, Great staging, Great writing, Intelligent, Clever

See it if you like excellent writing,clever staging,terrific acting.Dialogue is brilliant & witty, but also real. It discusses some serious topics.

Don't see it if predictable plot twists make you mad. This one is telegraphed from early on,but the rest of the play makes up for it.Set changes are clever

Confusing, Just too pat, Slick, Cerebral

See it if you like Stoppard and all that entails. Lovely performances and cool staging in an ultimately implausible story.

Don't see it if you don't like obtuse talky stories that wrap up like an unbelievable bow.

Absorbing, Intelligent, Great writing, Profound, Thought-provoking

See it if A clever meditation on the nature of consciousness, and whether or not altruism exists. Makes you think about the questions posed. Neat set.

Don't see it if’re looking for light entertainment. Stoppard makes you work.

Ambitious, Cerebral, Intelligent, Heavy material that requires utmost focus, Some questionable staging

See it if a fan of: Tom Stoppard’s works; immersive and intelligent writing; and/or works that seize upon you mentally, if not emotionally, too.

Don't see it if you can’t commit to an intermissionless show with an intelligent script that requires critical-thinking about self, beliefs, and the world.

Also Tom Stoppard’s genius continues with The Hard Problem, threading compl... Read more Read less


See it if Interesting discussion asking are we merely the sum of chemistry, phsyics, and math or is the sum more than its parts?

Don't see it if Entire play of PhDs arguing in boughie academic talk annoys you. Mostly scientific debate, little plot development / real emotions.

Also Ticket from LincTix for $35.

Absorbing, Great writing, Intelligent, Profound

See it if love Tom Stoppard. This is more accessible than his other plays. Topics that probably everyone can understand and relate to.

Don't see it if Want fluff, skip this. Need to come with your brain and pay attention.

Absorbing, Great staging, Philosophical, Stoppard-dialogue, Intelligent

See it if You like Stoppard or can forgive the artificial dialogue and lectures that typify his work.

Don't see it if If stagey staging, spokesperson characters, and coincidental plotting will irk you.

Also I’m not a Stoppard fan but liked this one more than most. I knew what ... Read more Read less

Clever, Cliched, Thought-provoking, Slow, Funny

See it if You like Tom Stoppard plays. You ever took a metaphysics class. You want an exploration of consciousness and the sublime with lots of words.

Don't see it if You don't like drama as a prop or justification for explorations of thought. You don't like Tom Stoppard plays. You're easily bored.

Also After seeing this play, I want to marry Tom Stoppard, but I'm not sure... Read more Read less

Absorbing, Clever

See it if you are interested in the idea of consciousness and can handle the science.

Don't see it if you have issues with accents or understanding scientific arguments.

Absorbing, Ambitious, Dizzying, Great acting, Great writing

See it if You want entertaining theater, that delves into extraordinary questions, while not forgetting to entertain. An ephemeral Adelaide Clemens.

Don't see it if You don’t want to be challenged, on questions of science and religion, nature vs nurture... Or, if you need a big show in a big theater.

Thought-provoking, Disappointing, Great staging, Predictable, Lacks credibility

See it if You are okay seeing a lesser Stoppard work that is not as deep,as it seems it aims to be.

Don't see it if You don’t like verbose plays that telegraph what will happen failrly early on.

Absorbing, Exquisite, Great writing, Intelligent, Profound

See it if Brilliant Stoppard wordplay and dazzling exploration of consciousness as told through the story of a young psychologist, faith & philosophy

Don't see it if You can’t take a serious journey exploring the mind/body problem, morality in love & business, philosophy, faith and scientific exploration

Demanding, engrossing, provocative, smart

See it if plays about complex ideas and complicated people that demand your careful attention and twist your emotions appeal to you

Don't see it if you want an easy night of superficial entertainment.

Also Excellent acting but in comparison to the original London production v... Read more Read less

Ambitious, Confusing, Great acting, Intelligent, Slow

See it if you are huge fan of Stoppard and have to see everything he does. This is very smart like all his shows. The directing is clever.

Don't see it if you expect theatre to be emotionally affecting. This has no real heart, seems like a lecture. Even Stoppard fans will be disappointed.

Thought-provoking, Clever, Cerebral, Engaging

See it if You like plays about ideas, lots of ideas, we're talking the problem of human consciousness, algorithms, mapping the brain and adoption.

Don't see it if You like your plots emotional without intellectual baggage and lots of talk. You like drama about people rather than ideas.

Also I like Tom Stoppard's plays but I was hesitant about seeing this one a... Read more Read less

Absorbing, Great acting, Entertaining, Intelligent

See it if It's a good play, but its not a good Tom Stoppard play--nothing challenging, none of the Stoppard weirdness. Excellent cast except the lead

Don't see it if Are expecting Vintage Tom Stoppard

Interesting and engaging

See it if you like discussions on what determines human consciousness vs. unfeeling machines (great)--and like Tom Stoppard.

Don't see it if you want action and intense character development. This play is a thought piece, good enough, but not high drama or Stoppard's wittiest best

November 19th, 2018
"As the characters argue and argue and argue about the essence of human behavior, the stakes seldom feel compellingly high. Abstractly, this play may be taking on the biggest concepts imaginable, yet on stage it feels disappointingly small...It is hard to avoid the impression that 'The Hard Probl...
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November 19th, 2018
"The problem with Tom Stoppard’s new play is that it isn’t hard enough...Stoppard’s approach to this question is rudimentary: an intro-level survey of the shades of gray matter, starting with a discussion of the familiar 'prisoner’s dilemma' game-theory problem and then strolling down well-trodde...
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November 19th, 2018
"Its ideas are, as ever, rich and varied, while its dramatic scope is relatively modest. And while it may seem paradoxical, I think a sparer production—and one that remained a little less sentimental for a little longer—would have moved me more. O’Brien is gamely feelings-forward in his approach ...
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November 19th, 2018
"Stoppard here attempts to be more accessible, at least by his standards, by having his intellectual arguments frequently expressed by attractive young characters...The dialogue is far less plot-driven than rhetorical, the characters engaging in enough stiffly rendered intellectual arguments to f...
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