Theatre Review: Smart People at Writers Theatre

Theatre Review: Smart People at Writers Theatre
Smart People. Julian-Parker-Kayla-Carter-Deanna-Myers-Erik-Hellman

This is my “there it is kind of play.”…  Playwright Lydia R. Diamond

Glencoe, April 4, 2018. With today marking the 50 year anniversary of Martin Luther King Jr’s. assassination in Memphis, you’d think we would have learned a thing or two about race. And, yes, we have gotten closer to King’s dream but we still have a long way to go.

Even “Smart People” like Writers Theatre’s mixed-race cast for the show of the same name featuring 4 young urban professionals—a doctor, an actress, a psychologist and a neurobiologist–don’t have all the answers.

But perhaps, the play that taps into current cultural conversation in a compelling way as it digs into to deep questions of the nature of prejudice can provides a wake-up call giving us a jumping-off point to begin a dialogue about race.

Playwright Lydia R. Diamond started writing Smart People back in 2007 when the racial landscape was in flux leading up to the election of President Obama. The fact that the play didn’t make its world premiere until 2014 says a lot about its scope and the thought put into its story.

Diamond who writes about race from her heart and personal experience has a long string of impactful shows examining the subject including: Stick FlyVoyeurs de Venus and The Bluest Eye. 

Smart People views race in America through the lens of four intelligent, attractive and opinionated individuals–one white, one Asian and two black–all searching for love, success and identity while also attempting to navigate the intricacies of racial and sexual politics.

I was happy to see last night’s Writers Theatre audience was made up of a mix of races and both young and old men and women- defying typical theater audience demographics that often skew old, white and female.

The crowd during intermission of Smart People at Writers theatre. Photo: Carole Kuhrt-Brewer

The crowd during intermission of Smart People at Writers Theatre. Photo: Carole Kuhrt-Brewer

Smart People manages to be a progressive provocative and sophisticated conversation about race while also being thoroughly entertaining and even hilarious,” said Artistic Director Michael Halberstam.

The cast includes: Kayla Carter (Valerie Johnston), Erik Hellman (Brian White), Deanna Myers (Ginny Yang) and Julian Parker (Jackson Moore).

The designers are Collette Pollard (scenic), Izumi Inaba (costumes), Kathy A. Perkins (lighting), Deidre Searcy (projections) and Richard Woodbury (original music & sound). The dramaturg is Bobby Kennedy and the intimacy director is Sasha Smith. The production stage manager is Rebecca Pechter.

Rating: 4 stars (out of 4)

What: Smart People

When: Now through June 10, 2018

Where: Writers Gillian Theatre, 325 Tudor Court, Glencoe.

Tickets: $35 – $80. Subscriptions and individual tickets may be purchased online or by phone at 847-242-6000 or in person at the box office at 325 Tudor Court in Glencoe

For information about Writers Theatre Audience Enrichment programs, click here.  

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