February 11, 2016

“I do hope you’re following this,” the professor of neuroscience says to his students in the dizzying prologue of Lydia R. Diamond’s drama “Smart People.” He might well wonder. Prickly, provocative notions about race, class, prejudice, identity and sexuality ricochet like balls scattering across a pool table in this brainy but overstuffed drama, which opened on Thursday at Second Stage Theater in a slick production directed by Kenny Leon. For all their fancy talk (and talk, and talk) about psychology, neurology and the ways in which racism pervades American culture — naturally a churning topic at the moment — the forces that bring these four characters together too often seem dictated more by the playwright’s desire to dive deeply into a swirling whirlpool of ideas rather than by natural circumstances. (Invoking the parlor game “Six Degrees of Kevin Bacon,” as Ms. Diamond does, feels like a bit of a fig leaf.)