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Review: The Hard Problem at Studio Theatre

Arty Pants
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After living in Logan Circle for seven years, I’ve established a bit of a routine. I have my go-to spots for coffee (Dolcezza), manicures (the ‘nailsaloon), late night food when I’m feeling cute (Le Diplomate), and late night food when I’m feeling not-so-cute (Stoney’s). One of my favorite weeknight traditions is dinner-and-drinks at Commissary or B Too, followed by a play at Studio Theatre.

Studio Theatre is two blocks from my house, and offers incredible, groundbreaking theatre from some of the best playwrights in the country. It shocks me how many people admire the building, located right on 14th and P, and never go inside. Studio has first rights in D.C. to some of the very best plays in the country. And the ticket prices are incredibly affordable, beginning at $20, to boot. The proximity to great bars and restaurants (many of which offer happy hour) on 14th Street is perfect. But, if you can’t make it to happy hour before a show, Studio Theatre offers a full bar onsite. I could not tout Studio as a go-to-activity more. I bring a different friend with me each month to see Studio’s new plays, and by the time we leave, they are hooked.

This week, we enjoyed Taco Tuesday, which runs from 4-7 p.m. at Commissary. We noshed on way too many cauliflower, pulled chicken, and pulled pork tacos, washed down with mulled wine, before scuttling around the block to Studio Theatre.

We settled in to watch The Hard Problem, the latest thought-provoking play, which centers on a female psychologist and her quest to answer the question of morality.

Much like my Netflix preferences, I appreciated that the play had a strong female lead: Hilary, an educated, complicated, beautiful, and quippy scientist, who was struggling with her career challenges while balancing the challenges of being a young woman. She was immensely relatable—as was her struggle, as she worked to edit a paper while simultaneously entertaining a bed mate and discussing matters of morality. Hilary is your D.C. friend today.

Hilary is hired on a whim by the Krohl Institute for Brain Science, tasked with answering  the ‘hard problem’ of defining consciousness—is morality a mechanical result of the hard wiring of our brains, or is it the act of something more, such as beliefs in God or a greater purpose?

Through her personal and professional relationships, Hilary and the Hard Problem explore the difference between our brains and our minds, the nature of belief, and how to reconcile hard science with lived experience. While this was a lot for me to handle on a a busy work week and still reeling from the Inauguration, I appreciated the always intelligent, playful, and beautiful way Studio delivers humanity’s most challenging subjects and questions for us to ponder, witness, and discuss.

So, grab your girlfriends, have a great meal at Commissary or B Too, and get to Studio Theatre early to grab a great glass of wine, a comfy seat, and a quick, intermission-free show of less than two hours. It’s the perfect way to spend an evening.

The Hard Problem is playing through February 26. Tickets start at $20. 

Studio Theatre
1501 14th St. N.W.
Washington, D.C.

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