CAMBRIDGE — “There’s nothing wrong with asking questions,” a young character remarks during one of many frank conversations in “Barber Shop Chronicles,” a deeply engaging play now on the American Repertory Theater stage. The show examines a larger global dialogue about what it means to be a man — in particular, a black man— and holds up a mirror to hard truths about self-identity. There is no topic too sacred to discuss as a series of vibrant friends, strangers and longtime business partners shoot the breeze in the open environment of the barber shop — six shops, to be precise — and share their pasts, passions and daily successes and struggles.

It’s hard as an audience member not to get caught up in the witty, dynamic banter of the shop inhabitants, especially after the preshow partylike atmosphere, in which the actors play in the space and lucky early audience members are brought in to receive a mock haircut. The energy never wanes as the mood and tone of the night shifts and switches at the drop of a hat.

Playwright Inua Ellams’s characters come from a wide range of ages and backgrounds, many of them immigrants with deep roots and deep beliefs, but they all have the same need for understanding in a world that increasingly marginalizes them. They come to their favorite barber in England, South Africa, Zimbabwe, Uganda, Nigeria or Ghana to riff on politics, sex, family and sports, with a televised soccer game between Chelsea and Barcelona acting as a through line in each locale. As the shop owner in Lagos, Nigeria, asserts, the barber shop is a place where “men come to be men” — ideally strong, whatever that means.

But underscoring the bravado and shop talk is a deeper need for belonging. Masculinity is explored through the lens of both older men, who feel let down and abandoned by their fathers and leaders, particularly in the post-Mandela South Africa; and younger men who, through education, ignorance or will, challenge the pride, knowledge and traditional outlook of their fathers while just wanting to be heard. Power and what men do with it also leads to rapid-fire debates on the evils of money, oppression, slavery and use of the “n” word.

Woven throughout these exchanges is rumination on the authority of language and bereavement over its degradation and loss. The translation of children’s names could once tell you if times were good or bad for their parents, one man says, while another recounts, “My father spoke with his hands — but it was the wrong kind of language.” Now, overeducated youth and Americans are usurping language — Pidgin, to be precise — and thus our roots, a third laments.

In an age of increasingly divided populations, displacement in the current world beyond the barber shops’ borders looms large, but there is enough food for thought to keep your mind completely occupied throughout the two hours the show runs, without intermission.

It is nearly impossible to single out any actors in a remarkable troupe of 12 for their individual performance, as several flawlessly played multiple characters or completely owned their sole role. However, some due must be paid to Patrice Naiambana as Simphiwe, a South African burdened by the search for a father who didn’t want him and worried for the future of his son; and Anthony Ofoegbu as Emmanuel, a shop owner with secrets who’s trying to keep several plates — or, perhaps, chairs — spinning at once.

In addition to their acting talents, the ensemble also has the opportunity to display their vocal and dance skills with clever interludes between scenes, with callouts to modern pop and traditional African tunes. Above them, a globe, lit like a disco ball, directs the audience’s attention to where the next scene will take place.

Though it doesn’t come with the same level of fanfare as some of the Broadway-bound productions that A.R.T. has put on over recent years, “Barber Shop Chronicles” is a cut above, asking many questions without providing easy answers. Brilliantly performed and wonderfully staged, with audience members seated on-stage and off, it is an immersive, thought-provoking must-see.