Smart People
Closed 1h 50m
Smart People
74

Smart People NYC Reviews and Tickets

74%
(70 Reviews)
Positive
74%
Mixed
17%
Negative
9%
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.

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Member Reviews (70)

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73
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

33
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.

Critic Reviews (30)

The New York Times
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 'Smart People' feeling like you’ve attended a marathon series of seminars, not a persuasively drawn drama."
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Time Out New York
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 Diamond raises resonant questions, much of her spitballing hits right on the nose. Audiences may be smarter than the play seems to believe."
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New York Magazine / Vulture
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 kind of play that’s fascinating to read and think about. It is not, however, very fascinating to watch…The bigger problem is that there is very little plot.”
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The Hollywood Reporter
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 a theme...But it's hard to quibble with a play that remains so consistently intelligent, scathingly funny and even affecting in its understated way."
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Variety
February 11th, 2016

"A sexy, serious and very, very funny modern-day comedy of manners...At the end of the play, when the characters meet at a dinner party and lay all their race cards on the table, sparks really fly…The playwright puts this incendiary topic in a realistic context, and addresses it in a refreshingly honest manner."
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The Wall Street Journal
February 18th, 2016

"'Smart People' is a sharp-edged satire, and Ms. Diamond’s ear for the foibles of her subjects is so precisely tuned as to make 'Clybourne Park' and 'Disgraced' look downright tone-deaf...But as funny as 'Smart People' is, it’s also quite deeply felt...The play’s the thing, and it’s a gem. Not only is 'Smart People' soundly constructed, but it’s intelligent and provocative enough to put you in mind of Tom Stoppard."
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New York Post
February 13th, 2016

"'Smart People' is saying something about race and racism — but what? Lydia R. Diamond’s most clever gambit here is to frame her argument as a rom-com in which sexual and academic power moves — two of the characters teach at Harvard — play against pseudo-edgy speechifying...How ironic that a show about race would be skin-deep."
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New York Daily News
February 11th, 2016

"As the comedy-drama 'Smart People' covers the combustible subject of racism, it delivers a couple of other undisputable truths. First, a play that’s topical isn’t necessarily illumininating. Second, an actor who has given solid performances on screen isn’t a sure thing on stage…It’s terrain worth exploring. But for every scene that comes alive with humor, there are two that turn didactic."
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AM New York
February 11th, 2016

"No overall storyline develops and very little occurs for two hours and 15 minutes. It’s hard to imagine the play appealing to an audience other than the academic types that it depicts. Leon draws shaded, believable performances from the quartet, but the play might have been more entertaining had he placed more emphasis on the humor in the script. It also may work better if cut down to 90 minutes."
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Theatermania
February 11th, 2016

"'Smart People' feels like a rough draft of a potentially greater play…Diamond's contrivance is ultra-transparent. This wouldn't be a problem if it led to something. After 90 minutes of exposition we expect a truly spectacular main event, but all we get is a limp version of a drinking and fighting play…Thankfully, the performers are able to make Diamond's text seem halfway plausible."
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BroadwayWorld
February 24th, 2016

"New sharply satiric comedy...Diamond's crisp and clever dialogue is accented by director Kenny Leon's slick production...'Smart People' is very funny because it reflects a very sympathetic human foible; the desire to resolve our racial conflicts without messing things up every time we open our mouths."
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Lighting & Sound America
February 16th, 2016

"The strength of 'Smart People' is also its weakness: Diamond is so busy giving her characters smart, scathing things to say that she never manages to establish a central conflict...She's brilliant at argument, less so at creating drama...If you're going to enjoy 'Smart People' you'll have to look at it as a frequently stimulating symposium rather than a fully realized dramatic work. Still, under Kenny Leon's acute direction, all four cast members make strong impressions."
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Talkin' Broadway
February 11th, 2016

"The play's impersonal, almost mechanical, construction makes it difficult to care most of the time…Many of the performances don't help, either…Despite these problems, 'Smart People' is never boring, and in it Diamond finds plenty of enlightenment and entertainment in the topics she tackles…There's no shaking a sense of disappointment that she wasn't willing to cut just a bit deeper."
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TheaterScene.net
February 24th, 2016

"An uneven but clever and witty satire...While the play knows where it is going, it is not always obvious to the audience. 'Smart People,' however, is a clever, perceptive look at race in the work place and how it impinges on romantic relations in our private lives. Mahershala Ali, Joshua Jackson, Anne Son and Tessa Thompson are charismatic performers worth watching for in their future stage roles."
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Theater Pizzazz
February 17th, 2016

"Diamond’s schematic, only sporadically effective play...concerns four characters...The playwright uses them more as glib (and sometimes funny) mouthpieces for different viewpoints than as three-dimensional characters...The complications seem contrived and the incidents leading to lovers’ quarrels artificial...The production is smooth, the actors fine, the ideas worth a listen, and, as the title declares, the characters smart. The play itself, though, barely passes."
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CurtainUp
February 12th, 2016

"Diamond's characters come off mostly as very talkative issue-representatives. It's not that what they represent, isn't worth thinking about and what they say isn't often sharp and funny. It's just that it all comes off as too familiar and lacking in real depth, with Diamond's facility for snappy dialogue sabotaged by plot devices that too often smack of contrivance...'Smart People' ultimately disappoints because it could have been so much smarter."
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Front Mezz Junkies
February 21st, 2016

"During the overlong and talkie play 'Smart People,' I started to hear lectures and debates rather then dialogue and interactions...It’s as complicated as it sounds, and as angry and contrived as it feels...Under difference circumstances I would be very willing to accept these implausible connections, if the heart and the emotional core felt true. Sadly it doesn’t...It doesn’t matter how smart these people are, we need them to be real people as well."
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C
February 15th, 2016

"Topicality is the strongest asset Lydia R. Diamond’s play 'Smart People,' under Kenny Leon’s brisk direction, has going for it. Yes, Diamond’s work has some trenchant observations about race in America, But it’s much less smart, and far more muddled, than the author probably intended."
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The Guardian (UK)
February 11th, 2016

"This is a swirl of theories, propositions and provocations in search of a play…Diamond works to establish relationships in ways that sometimes feel natural and more often feel strained. She wants the conflicts among them to emerge from character. But too often they feel like writerly contrivances…That the actors feel distanced from the more academic speeches does not help."
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B
February 11th, 2016

"I found the play somewhat unsatisfying. Diamond’s structure uses a lot of short, fragmentary scenes…The whole is somehow less than the sum of its parts…I felt that the sex scenes and the gratuitousl nudity were thrown in to grab the audience’s attention between didactic moments…The stunningly attractive cast make their characters lively…The direction by Kenny Leon seemed a bit slack. I do give the playwright credit for writing a play that is likely to provoke lively discussion."
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New York Theatre Guide
February 22nd, 2016

"We hear some very smart people saying some very smart things. We see their lips moving, but we don’t hear a word they are saying. Diamond has given these fine actors little to work with in terms of depth. Kenny Leon’s direction does nothing to elevate or simplify the evening. These characters remain a conglomeration of facts and figures...Who these people are, however, and why we should care is never discovered."
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The Wrap
February 11th, 2016

" 'Confrontational People' would be a more apt title…Arguments are fine. Many fine plays have been built around them, but the quick repetition of them over the course of two and a half hours becomes numbing. In the first act, there are several vignettes, each of which carries the same weight under Kenny Leon‘s direction…Diamond means to say big things...Big ideas have a way of getting lost when people bicker."
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Newsday
February 11th, 2016

"There are racial and emotional land mines all around 'Smart People,' the provocative, sharply observed and shrewdly breezy new play...Directed with sly, stark sleekness, the serious comedy introduces disparate high-achievers who meet cute and cannot keep themselves from puncturing the relationships with sharp questions...Terrific acting and nuanced writing twist stereotypes into high-level thrills."
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NorthJersey.com
February 12th, 2016

"'Smart People' is a patchwork quilt of a play, a mélange of scenes about race in America without a distinctive through-pattern. Much of it is quite diverting, although it falls short of compelling...Diamond essentially presents these characters as types, outfitted with qualities and attitudes, rather than as distinctive individuals. Their conversations can be very witty, while also seeming artificial...Maybe, 'Smart People' is just the kind of play that gets you thinking rather than feeling."
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NY Theatre Guide
February 18th, 2016

"Director Kenny Leon and writer Lydia R. Diamond deserve every accolade for this play...Perfect pacing so that the audience never feels bored or too overwrought by the seriousness of the matters being played out in front of them...'Smart People' is not just a 'smart' play but a wise one. It is an intellectual analysis on the 'intelligent,' and whether being smart is valuable if you are not good or kind in deed."
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Act Three - The Reviews
February 11th, 2016

"The most self-absorbed, un-interesting, and indulgent play by what can only be described as a bitter, angry, ivy-leaguer stuck in academia-land...Overall the actors were too loud, too flat, and seemed to be playing to the cameras...Do yourself a favor and skip 'Smart People.'"
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Reviewing The Drama
February 11th, 2016

"I was finding the well-written 'Smart People.' directed by Tony winner Kenny Leon, to be a little trite. I don't mean to dismiss the characters' points of view or Ms. Diamond's voice; I mean that the conversations sounded like ones I'd heard before. I was eager for a fresh perspective. Toward the end of the play, I got it."
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Center on the Aisle
February 26th, 2016

"The topics Diamond addresses in 'Smart People'—race, gender, social and sexual politics—are all significant and relevant. Yet the play fails to completely engage the audience...The characters are so self-involved and self-important that they become blatantly unlikable…Cutting the work down to a more focused, easier-to-digest 90 minutes may have helped the medicine go down more easily. At end of play, Brian concludes, “Life sucks.” Do we really need Lydia R. Diamond to tell us that?"
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8asians
February 16th, 2016

"While none of the statements, jokes, and snappy comments made about race were particularly new and cutting, that is perhaps their beauty...It is largely artful, excepting some inevitable stumbles...The characters are all flawed and often unlikable, but this makes it feel all the more genuine...'Smart People' is wry and, well, smart. The end was perhaps too clean and it has its flaws, but the climax fight over dinner that brings everyone into the same room for the first time is spectacular."
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The Root
February 20th, 2016

"'Smart People' is exactly what you would expect it to be: smart, sexy and provocative...All four actors are brilliant, edgy and captivating in their respective roles...Yes, we’ve seen it done before: an intersection of characters whose lives all meet because of one single, focal point. However, it’s never been done before with such clever and amusing dialogue and a plot that is intelligently woven together."
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