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Smart People

From 70 member  reviews
Members say: Thought-provoking, Ambitious, Absorbing, Great acting, Intelligent

About the show

Second Stage Theatre presents this comedy-drama tackling issues of race, sex, and class, starring Joshua Jackson and directed by Tony-winner Kenny Leon. More…

The quest for love, achievement and identity is universal, but what role does race play in the story of our lives? On the eve of Obama’s first election, four Harvard intellectuals find themselves entangled in a complex web of social and sexual politics in this provocative new play by Lydia R. Diamond.

Member Reviews (70)


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

Ambitious not altogether successful play re racism/gender/personal identity laced with humor

See it if you enjoy intricate racially-charged mating dance for two couples, culminating in racial showdown; charismatic Mahershala Ali (houseofcards)

Don't see it if don't appreciate characters that are stand ins for ideas and a confusing effort to bring together too many meaty issues

Banal, Disappointing, Indulgent, Thought-provoking, Relevant

See it if You want to see the actors in it and want to explore the issues in the play.

Don't see it if You want to see a fully realized show. It didn't feel finished. It was told in short scenes and never really felt cohesive.

Schematic, underdeveloped, sluggish direction, poor acting,, Excruciating

See it if you enjoy seeing underdeveloped plays given a full production. Another misfire from Second Stage.

Don't see it if you are a smart person. This production is totally unsatisfying.

Absorbing, Clever, Great acting, Funny, Intelligent

See it if You enjoy plays that are up to the minute current and have significant messages that make you think. You are a fan of actor Josh Jackson !

Don't see it if You can't deal with some male nudity and being forced to think about your personal prejudices.

Absorbing, Edgy, Great writing, Great acting, Resonant

See it if you love great scripts with great actors following a great directors lead. Excellence abounds!

Don't see it if you dislike intense dialogue with strong usage of big words!

Original, Quirky, Thought-provoking, Great acting, Confusing

See it if You are open to some interesting opinions that you may not agree with, presented by excellent actors.

Don't see it if You don't care for a talky evening with a disappointing ending

Ambitious, Funny, Great acting, Great writing, Relevant

See it if A frank discussion on race executed deftly in the framework of a comedy with strong writing and performances appeals to you.

Don't see it if You've seen one too many race plays where the liberal white guy's point of view is prominent. (My only criticism of this show.)

Absorbing, Funny, Great acting, Thought-provoking, Intense

See it if for a provocative exploration of race (and gender) that's also quite funny and observant. But it does feel incomplete and not fully gelled.

Don't see it if you dislike dialogue-driven plays or don't want to think about racism in america

Ambitious, Disappointing, Indulgent, Relevant, Long-winded

See it if You enjoy plays that make you think about race and how it defines your actions and reactions. You enjoy seeing TV actors on stage

Don't see it if You don't like wordy plays with a lot of dialogue and very little actual action. Situations that are somewhat contrived and not believable

Ambitious, Intelligent, Thought-provoking

See it if you're in the mood for a thought-provoking play with some humor

Don't see it if you're not in the mood for a more serious play

Clever, Absorbing, Funny, Intelligent, Relevant

See it if you want a play that discusses race in a complex but funny way & doesn't shy away from uncomfortable situations & conversations.

Don't see it if you're disinterested in the analysis of race & racism or don't enjoy complex & often overly intellectual dialogue.

Ambitious, Cliched, Disappointing, Great acting, Intelligent

See it if you think lectures and debates make great theatre

Don't see it if you want your intellectualisms mixed with real emotionality and plot development.

Great writing, Great acting, Clever, Edgy, Thought-provoking

See it if you want to explore racism from many different angles

Don't see it if You expect your dramas to have a plot

Absorbing, Clever, Entertaining, Great acting, Intelligent

See it if you want to see a relevant play addressing racism, sexism, and privilege in a microcosm of these 4 characters.

Don't see it if you are uncomfortable talking about racism, sexism, or privilege. A few old white people walked out during the performance (super rude).

Ambitious, Engaging, Thought-provoking

See it if you're up for yet another play about racism in America. Smart People is funny, engaging, provocative, and original.

Don't see it if you need less talk and more action in your theatre. This show is a bit long and pretty talky, but I enjoyed it.

Clever, Intelligent, Relevant, Thought-provoking, Ambitious

See it if You are deeply affected by race or enjoy plays as a format for a debate, rather than needing a coherent dramatic arc.

Don't see it if You are a stickler for "show, don't tell" in playwriting; you are emphatic that the characters must come before the message.

Absorbing, Clever, Funny, Intelligent, Original

See it if You like to see really smart, funny, thought provoking dramas with very good acting.

Don't see it if There is no reason not to see this, so good!

Original, Quirky, Disappointing, Good acting, Relevant

See it if you want to see how someone might prove that racism is somehow inherent in the white population. Interesting premise. Not fully developed.

Don't see it if you have no interest in a play on racism from a somewhat novel point of view. Good ensemble work.

Disappointing, Slow, Overrated

See it if You are very interested in shows that deal with races relations

Don't see it if Very slow, drawn out, staging was clever at 1st but became tired and repetitive especially in 2nd act. 2nd act failed to hold my attention

Absorbing, Ambitious, Edgy, Intelligent

See it if You enjoy thought provoking new work with challenging subject matter. Sparse but deliberate staging, well cast.

Don't see it if You are looking for a light piece or don't want to think about how we conceptualize and handle race in everyday life.

Confusing, Ambitious, Resonant

See it if A topical story with characters that are uninteresting and difficult to root for. The racial lesson was heavy-handed. I just didn't care.

Don't see it if A play about race with a very sporadic style of storytelling.

Overrated, Relevant, Indulgent, Thought-provoking, Disappointing

See it if you want to hear a smartly scripted conversation about race in America.

Don't see it if you're expecting fully formed characters or anything beyond a play of ideas.

Clever, Cliched, Disappointing, Intelligent

See it if You can enjoy the acting and the dialogue separated out from the banal and cliched story.

Don't see it if the lack of realism in the supposedly realistic story is going to bug you. Nothing like real academia or life.

Ambitious, Great acting, Intense, Resonant, Thought-provoking

See it if An absorbing play with great acting. Slightly uneven - great dialogue and premise, though a tad preachy at times, but always compelling,

Don't see it if You are not interested in plays about race relations, because this is powder keg of a play that will challenge what you think.

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

See it if you enjoy mostly conversation-based theatre of ideas on intersectionality; open-ended plot; thoughtful writing & committed performances

Don't see it if you are offended by some explicit content (e.g. male nudity); you need closure and don't like shows that make you think

Also lydia diamond applies her sharp wit, humor, and insight (much enjoyed ... Read more Read less

February 11th, 2016
"A brainy but overstuffed drama…The script is stuffed with academic and psychiatric jargon and the characters often seem to be mere receptacles for the ideas they espouse rather than fully fleshed-out people. Although Ms. Diamond is clearly herself a powerfully smart writer, you come away from 'S...
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February 11th, 2016
"As their lives intertwine, albeit in ways that are not always convincing, their assumptions, flirtations and arguments sit on promising fault lines of conflict. So why doesn’t the play shake us more than it does?...the production’s flaws bring out some weaknesses in the writing...Although Diamon...
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February 11th, 2016
"On the evidence of this unsatisfying production, Diamond is more interested in addressing the complications of race as a kind of laboratory puzzle than in embodying characters that credibly exist beyond that issue…All of these permutations and involutions of the theme make 'Smart People' the kin...
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February 11th, 2016
"A provocative dialectic and a lively comedy, with prickly characters that push back against one another's preconceptions…The occasional scene doesn't entirely ring true…And the play at times feels less like a developing narrative then a succession of whip-smart scenes illustrating variations on ...
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