McKinley Belcher III as Jackson Moore and Eunice Wong as Ginny Yang in Smart People

Credit: T. Charles Erickson

Arts This Week: Smart Patients, Smart Moms, Smart People

June 5, 2014

Two courageous teens rely on love to face cancer, director Diane Paulus expresses all she is glad she learned from her mother in a new Cirque du Soleil performance, and playwright Lydia Diamond treats issues of prejudice with comedy, smartly.

Smart People Presented by the Huntington Theatre Company, it plays at the Calderwood Pavilion through June 29th.

This play deals with the big question of whether our beliefs and prejudices are hard-wired by examining the intersecting lives of four Harvard intellectuals – Brian, a white neuro-psychiatrist studying the brain’s response to race; his Chinese-Japanese American lover Ginny, a tenured Harvard professor of psychology who studies race and identity among Asian-American women; Brian’s friend Jackson, an outspoken African-American surgical intern on rotation in one of Harvard’s teaching hospitals; and Valerie, an African-American graduate of ART’s acting program. Playwright Lydia Diamond told me the best way for her to approach this kind of important story is through comedy.

"In these things that are the most difficult things to wrap our minds around, there is great humor. Race is awkward, sex is weird and we have to laugh about it. I’ve found that in the working out of complicated things, the laughter is both disarming and humanizing, it’s were we can connect,” Diamond said.

Amaluna Plays under the Big Top at the Marine Industrial Park.

In typical Cirque du Soliel fashion, you will leave this world to arrive on another. In this case, a mysterious island governed by Goddesses and guided by the cycles of the moon. This is a new venture for director Diane Paulus, and brings to it her examination of the mother-daughter relationship. The queen, Prospera, directs her daughter’s coming-of-age ceremony in a rite that honours femininity, renewal, rebirth and balance which marks the passing of these insights and values from one generation to the next. This comes directly from Paulus's own relationship with her mother.

“I feel so influenced by my mother and what she gave me in life lessons and just her influence on me," Paulus told me, "that I carry it with me every day, even though she’s now passed away many, many years. So, that feeling of transmission from one generation to the next was really inspiring for me."

Scene from The Fault in Our Stars

The Fault in Our Stars In theaters Friday.

John Green's novel has captivated audiences and become a wonderfully sensitive, moving and real film. Two teenagers, Hazel and Gus share meet and fall in love at a cancer support group. Their youthful wit and disdain for the conventional takes everyone on an unforgettable journey. John Green gets at the heart of the funny, thrilling and tragic business of being alive and in love.

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