by George F.Walker

Problem Child


Denise and R.J. once lived in a big town, having lots of trouble with drugs and crime. As Denise gets pregnant, she becomes sober and they move to a smaller town, but when the baby was born and R.J. gets imprisoned, she is in need of money and becomes, being totally desperate, a prostitute. Her mother calls the police, telling them the worst stories about her daughter, so that the social workers come and pick up the baby, who is staying in a foster family since then. For further investigations, as Denise calls it, they have to go back to the city and stay in the motel for over six months waiting for a sign to get the baby back. During this time, R.J. is mostly watching TV shows and is furious about their behavior, while Denise is desperately waiting for calls. Helen, the social worker, is not much of a help and confronts both with reproaches. One day, as Denise is taking a nap, Helen comes in, searching through their stuff. In doing so, she injures herself with a broken glass. Denise and Helen get into a conversation, while Helen gets too personal for Denise‘s taste. She is getting pushed hard at her wound, loses consciousness, and bumps against the toilet, lieing there like dead. This takes the decision off Denise to actually kill her with the gun, as she thinks she is already dead. Phillie comes in and helps Denise to drag her out and dig a hole for the motionless body. R.J. is coming back being totally shocked about what happened and wants to call the police to do the right thing, but Denise is against it. Surprisingly in scene seven, Helen is taking a shower, as she was not dead, but was buried alive and is seriously injured. She goes on talking to both of them, saying that Denise is a bad girl, not even using the chance to help out and just thinking of herself. She ends up in hospital, still calling every day. Phillie tried hard to kidnap Christine, but is always stopped by something. R.J. is having telephone calls with network executives from the TV Shows as they are interested in his opinion about dealing with the topics and guests. Just Denise is desperately sad and feels like being hell, certainly never seeing her child again.



– Married to Denise

– Has been in prison

– Mother is dead

– Trying to be part of his new community

– Trying hard to impress the social worker Helen


– married to R.J., one child with him – Christine

–  Housewife

–  Has been on drugs and did some tricks (prostitute)

–  Suffers badly since Christine is gone

–  Bought a gun to shoot her mother


– Social worker

–  Has to find out more about the couple

–  Is against Denise’s life style

–  Gets buried alive


– Works in the Motel in the main office and also cleans

–  Is a drinker

–  Trying to help them, even if he´d become a criminal through his acts

Essential analysis:

–     Consists of one act including seven scenes in chronological order

–     Dialogues between the characters

–     Ends with a monologue by Denise giving an overview of what has happened in the past 6 months

–     Mostly short sentences

–     Informal language

–     Many stage directions like costumes, light, reactions, setting, lights

Further analysis:

„Problem Child” is the first drama of the Suburban Motel series that takes place in this special motel room in the USA.

It is a piece of writing with which almost every family, especially women, could identify. Losing your own child because you are a loser in society, you were not able to deal with things correctly and you do not fit in this picture society has for you.

So what to do? You fight for your right! You are willing to do everything. But you do not see light, hope, as just everybody, also the ones who are supposed to help you, are against you.

“Problem Child” is not a about the child who makes troubles all the time, but is about the love you have for your own child and the troubles you are willing to be in to fight for it, to save it, to protect it. It does not matter, as long as the child is with you.


„Problem Child tackles a serious issue with wit and style, but in the end is lacking in substance.“ (Lisa Wilton – Jam!Showbiz)

„Problem Child is a problem play, uncertain of tone as it veers between melodrama and black comedy. It is clumsily put together and sometimes downright silly. Its author, George F Walker, is apparently considered a major playwright in his native Canada, which makes you think that Canadian playwrighting must be in quite as sorry a state as poor Denise.“ (Lyn Gardner – The Guardian)

„The theater seldom gives voice to pure underclass fury, but that’s what George F. Walker does in “Problem Child.”… “Problem Child” is a very funny play, but — and you can usually say this when a Walker drama appears — it’s also as serious and intense as anything on Washington stages right now. “(The Washington Post)

„No other living playwright pushes the boundaries of comedy as far, with often stunning results. “ (Chicago Sun Times)

„Walker has an eye for the ridiculous and an imagination that packs his plays with action. “ (New York Times)

Analyzing a picture of the drama on stage:

On the picture, as it may be quite clear, are R.J. and Denise, the couple which is fighting for their child and encounter many problems due to their own past. The worries are totally seen in Denise`s  eyes, who is afraid of losing much more her control over herself and next to her R.J. – her boyfriend, who tried hard being a good guy in the community and tries to support his girlfriend. The gun in Denise’s jeans is there to kill the social worker Helen, who was not really a support for the couple and actually not a big fan of Denise, especially not as a mother. Given that Denise found Helen lying like dead on the bathroom floor she did not have to kill her anymore. This whole picture could have been taken then after Denise and Phillie buried Helen alive and afterwards R.J. came home to find out what just had happened and being absolutely shocked. Though Helen was not dead, Denise was still afraid, afraid of never seeing her baby girl Christine again and she totally needed R.J.’s support, love and strength who at last believed in both of them.



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