The Kansas City Actors Theatre is bringing to the stage “Smart People,” a story about four “smart” friends who meet up on the evening of Barack Obama’s presidential election. Subtle comedy and awkwardness are intertwined between the characters who are trying to figure out a sensitive topic on race and politics. 

“Smart People” is the latest play from Lorraine Hansberry Award Winning Playwright Lydia Diamond brought to stage by talented director and storyteller Ile Haggins and a talented acting team, beginning  Jan. 18  thru Jan. 29, except Jan. 24 & 25., 7:30 p.m. at The City Stage at Union Station, 30 W Pershing Rd, KCMO.

It’s the eve of Obama’s first election. Four of Harvard University’s brightest; a surgeon, an actress, a psychologist, and a neuro-psychiatrist, are all interested in different aspects of the brain, particularly how it responds to race. But like all smart people, they are also searching for love, success, and identity in their own lives. 

The characters are:

Valerie Johnston, a young Black actress cleaning houses and working odd jobs to make ends meet until her recently earned a Master of Fine Arts (M.F.A.) starts to pay off; 

Ginny Yang, a Chinese and Japanese American psychology professor studying race and identity in Asian American women; 

Jackson Moore, a Black surgical intern; and

Brian White, a White neuroscientist with a shocking hypothesis, researching the way that societal racial perceptions are formed. 

Lydia Diamond brings these characters together in this sharp, witty play about social and sexual politics.

Actor Terrace Wyatt Jr. describes his character Jackson  as a workaholic and overachiever who tends to show off.

Actress Ashley Kennedy describes her character Valerie as “a spice of life” while not being afraid to speak her mind, which Kennedy loves about her. 

“Valerie is exploring the world as a professional actress and navigating these different spaces. She brings a juxtaposition to these characters, especially with Jackson.”

While Valerie and Jackson have a relationship with a “lovely banter” between them, the overall cast seem to struggle to get on the same page.

“Despite these characters being extremely smart people, they get it wrong and they’re constantly missing each other,” Kennedy said.

Although progress was made the night of President Obama’s election, Kennedy emphasizes there’s still a lot of work to accomplish in today’s society.

Wyatt Jr. reassures that people will be intrigued to create their own conversations and might gain mixed feelings from the play. 

The play runs slightly over two hours with a 15 minute intermission, and is recommended for viewers ages 18 and up.

Lydia R. Diamond is a prolific playwright and teaching artist with award-winning plays including “Stick Fly,” “Harriet Jacobs” and her popular adaptation of Toni Morrison’ novel, “The Bluest Eye.”  Diamond’s early works have be on stage nationwide including Chicago’s Congo Square, The Kansas City Rep, and The Arena Stage in Washington D.C. 

The first three nights of the play are previews and Sat. Jan 21 is considered opening night.  Mon. Jan. 23 is industry night.  Matinee performances are both Sundays Jan. 22 and 29 and Sat. Jan. 28  at 2 p.m., all other shows are at 7 p.m.    To purchase tickets, visit: https://bit.ly/3jzDq3F

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Simone Garza

Simone Garza is a reporter in our Kansas City office. In addition to general reporting on Kansas City’s African-American community, she reports on economic inclusion for the African American community....