When Second Stage Theater announced the cast of its latest production, Smart People, I was floored. Four people...and I knew them all. If by knew them all, I meant I had watched them in various TV shows over the years. Needless to say, I was super excited to see the show.
We've attended shows at Second Stage for quite some time. We even became season ticket holders this year. We had yet to be disappointed by a production there. And the premise of Smart People - on the eve of Obama's 2008 Presidential Election, four highly intelligent Cambridge residents broach the treacherous topic of race - seemed intriguing and certainly relevant, but we just didn't love it.
Despite the absolutely phenomenal acting from Brian (Joshua Jackson), Ginny (Anne Son), Jackson (Mahershala Ali), and Valerie (Tessa Thompson), the story line felt needlessly convoluted at times. Brian, a progressive neuroscientist professor studying the brain's response to race and its implications, falls for Ginny, a psychiatrist studying low-income Asian-American women's reaction to stress. Ginny interfaces with Doctor Jackson when she proposes her services at his newly establish clinic for low-income patients. Jackson has a chance encounter with Valerie, a struggling actress, when he begins stitching up the deep gash an out of place prop made on her forehead. Valerie later signs up as a research assistant for Brian. And ultimately, the entire crew unknowingly gathers for a dinner party that goes awry once the issues of race are once again brought into the mix.
While there were some interesting thoughts brought to light, it could have been presented in a more appealing way. It is a play that I would recommend based on the content rather than the production. Honestly, the cast carried the true weight of the show. Unfortunately, it is no longer showing at Second Stage, but it's possible it could pop up again down the line.