“Problem Play”
              Tyler Coburn
              The term “problem play” originated when nineteenth-century theater made a realist turn, saddling characters and stories with the cause célèbres of the day. In simplest form, drama gave way to soapbox sermons and moral absolutism. The prevalence of such mediocrity may account for why the problem play’s most artful contributor, Henrik Ibsen, went so far as to profess no interest in feminism at a dinner lauding his support of the cause.(1) Compounding the problem as subject is the problem of classification—Shakespeare scholar Frederick S. Boas has repurposed the term to designate works that toe the Aristotelian line and thus compel us to “move along dim untrodden paths.”(2) Rather than settle on a catchall of convenient imprecision, like “tragicomedy” or “dark humor,” Boas retains “problem play” wholesale, implying that the form’s problematic eluding of traditional genres is key to its critical operation. The eponymous group exhibition on view at Leo Koenig Inc. brings both definitions to bear on the generational inheritance of its participating artists. The audience enters the gallery through the back door, as it were, greeted by contemporary annotations of ur-texts. Bethan Huws’s two display boards, Ladies and Gentlemen (2006), educe gendered scripts from the assisted readymade, contingently troubling her nearby ...
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