Cover art by Brian Whitehill

The Problem

A R Gurney

This play is included in the collection:

Licensing Note

BPPI does not handle performance rights for this play. For performance rights, contact Samuel French, Inc.


A husband and wife learn of each other's extramarital affairs.

Production Info

Cast: 2 total (1 female, 1 male)
Short Drama (about 30 minutes)
Single Set
Contemporary Costumes

Press Quotes

“For many years, as he was forging his reputation as a playwright, A R Gurney was also a college professor, and in recent plays like HUMAN EVENTS and THE FOURTH WALL he has portrayed campus denizens in not-so-flattering terms. The academic life he depicts is an insular one, the academics themselves self-absorbed and self-important. They behave almost as if they were performing for an audience. Indeed, more than once Mr Gurney has used the university setting to make arguments about the state of the theater, which he also finds insular and self-absorbed, increasingly marginalized and increasingly accepting of its marginalization. In STRICTLY ACADEMIC, an evening of two one acts, Mr Gurney is painting his direst portraits of both the campus and the theater. The opening playlet, THE PROBLEM, is a shrewd, sardonic bit of camp about the sex life of a mathematics professor and his wife … In a very funny dialogue, the level of their inability to communicate with each other is ratcheted up again and again … The story takes some imaginative swerves, and the twist at the end is just right … it gently makes a savage point about academics who live only in their own minds and not in the world. In the concluding play, THE GUEST LECTURER, Mr Gurney has the same mischief in his heart, but bigger things in mind … There is something terrifically sly and admirable about Mr Gurney’s idea here, for what he’s constructed is an elaborate, plaintive allegory about what he sees as the strangulation of the theater in America … any critic will tell you that you can go to the theater nightly and still not come close to keeping up with new work that rarely achieves but often aspires to the level of art. From that perspective, the theater is currently thriving. And Mr Gurney himself is an example of it.” —Bruce Weber, The New York Times

About the Author


  • A R Gurney

    A R ("Pete") Gurney's work has been produced in New York at Lincoln Center, Manhattan Theater Club, Playwrights Horizons, and Primary Stages. Among his plays are THE DINING ROOM, THE COCKTAIL HOUR, LOVE LETTERS, SYLVIA, FAR EAST, THE FOURTH WALL, and BIG BILL. Four of his more political plays — O JERUSALEM, MRS FARNSWORTH, SCREEN PLAY, and POST MORTEM — have been produced at the Flea Theater in Tribeca. Gurney also wrote several published novels, as well as the libretto for Michael Torke's opera Strawberry Fields, presented by the New York City Opera. A former Professor of Literature at M I T, he was elected in 2005 to the Theater Hall of Fame and in 2006 to The American Academy of Arts and Letters. He passed away in June 2017. Audio Interview [audioplayer file="//" titles="Leonard Lopate Interviews A R Gurney" artists="" bg="434343"]

About the Book

Book Information

Publisher BPPI
Publication Date 12/1/2008
Pages 80
ISBN 9780881452488