The first production of Obie Award-winning playwright Dominique Morisseau’s Signature Residency is a timely look at the changes a community endures to find its resilience. More…
In 1949, Detroit’s Blackbottom neighborhood is gentrifying. Blue, a troubled trumpeter and the owner of Paradise Club, is torn between remaining in Blackbottom with his loyal lover Pumpkin and leaving behind a traumatic past. But when the arrival of a mysterious woman stirs up tensions, the fate of Paradise Club hangs in the balance.
"Firmly establishes Morisseau as one of the most exciting voices to be heard at New York theatres...If the presentation of a gifted but troubled male artist and the nice, nurturing woman who loves him seems bit familiar, it's not a flaw in the proceedings. Morisseau's beautifully stylized piece embraces this, and other character depictions, as antiquated classics and hints at the changes ahead for urban African-Americans and in relationships between men and women." Full Review
"A gorgeously written, acted, and designed production...Lloyd’s performance is well-paced by Mr. Santiago-Hudson, unfolding slowly toward a climactic finish that left my audience gasping and shook. The balance of the cast is equally as excellent...Expertly written, rivetingly staged, and finely acted, this play is another triumphant entry by Ms. Morisseau, and a 'must see' of the spring season." Full Review
“Morisseau paints a rich, beautiful pallet of pain, fleeting joy, and the quest for something lasting. Performed by a superb cast under the discerning direction of Ruben Santiago-Hudson, ‘Paradise Blue’...is a bracing and invigorating new play by an exciting young playwright. Challenging, warm, in dialogue with while advancing tradition, innovatively staged, and full of clear-eyed compassion: there is nothing not to love about this play.” Full Review
"Santiago-Hudson has assembled a cast that can handle the richly colloquial dialogue while holding back their characters' intentions with the flair of professional poker players. Nicholson captures Blue's controlling ways while also laying bare the fears that are eating him alive; his careful handling of the character's extreme contradictions makes him a talent to watch...Morisseau is one of the most engaging, enlightening talents to emerge in years, and this play continues her run of success... Full Review
"When the blues start to float through the room, with original music by Kenny Rampton with as assist from music director, Bill Sims, Jr. who also is credited with the original music for 'Pumpkin’s Song,' we can’t help but find the love and the dreaming, just like Pumpkin and her poetry. Those moments of musical and poetic recital, just like this play, are bathed in mercy and madness." Full Review
“Santiago-Hudson's staging captures the kinship between Morisseau's own distinctive voice and August Wilson...Excellent as all the actors are, it's Lloyd's Pumpkin and Smith's Corn who are the most emotionally engaging characters...The musician desperate to hit that perfect note and the sexy black angel character sashaying around the edges and inevitably to center stage may be just a tad clichéd, but Santiago-Hudson and this ensemble make them very classy classy clichés.” Full Review
"Morisseau has written finely layered themes of conflicts and personalities in 'Paradise Blue'....Watching Nicholson is akin to reminiscences of a young Denzel Washington filled with powerful, aching moments of pain. It’s Santiago-Hudson’s strong directorial hand that turns this cast into a well-oiled remarkable machine that creates its own buzz, resulting in real and truthful performances, aided by Ramos’ costumes and Rampton’s jaz-infused music.” Full Review
Playwright Morisseau, Director Santiago-Hudson and the excellent ensemble cast who work together like a Swiss clock, with a specificity and precision that is beautiful to behold, manage to march the piece to its inevitable conclusion without being obvious. And by using humor mixed with compassion the tension mounts without becoming overwhelming.” Full Review
“A gorgeous, evocative production...Feels almost Tennessee Williams–like...Morisseau brings chaos into the club via character...Santiago-Hudson beautifully blends the play’s moodier, more fanciful moments—for instance, the tortuous world in Blue’s mind—with simple, chatty scenes.” Full Review
“An intense and beautifully woven new play...Marked with both fierceness and humor...Morisseau has an innate feel for her characters. The storyline is never simple but there is such a palpable embodiment in each of her characters...Santiago-Hudson has an ostensible feel for the time period directing in a film noir style which enhances the play's time period...The characters under Santiago-Hudson’s indelibly sensitive direction interplay with each other so convincingly.” Full Review
“The characters, mostly richly drawn, would feel right at home in an August Wilson play except for Silver, who seems to have wandered in from a noir film. Skillful director Santiago-Hudson is in his comfort zone...The play does not fully live up to its promise...The character of Blue is so relentlessly unsympathetic and devoid of charm that it is hard to care about his fate...Nevertheless, I enjoyed seeing the other first-rate actors making the most of juicy roles...Still worth seeing.” Full Review
"If Blue comes off as a bit of a cipher, it's because his decline is a metaphor for what happened to the Motor City's famed African-American enclave Black Bottom...The supporting characters in his orbit have much richer melodies...Their poetic interactions...fuel the drama, which is heavy on atmosphere and emotion and light on action...'Paradise Blue' has overlong riffs and isn't as satisfying as 'Skeleton Crew.' Yet its haunting themes are liable to get stuck in your head." Full Review
“Keeps the spirit of August Wilson alive while further confirming Morrisseau as a rising star in her own right. The play is smoothly directed by Ruben Santiago-Hudson, like a bandleader orchestrating a jazz number...Nicholson can only do so much as Blue, who is not as fully drawn and fleshed out as the other characters...A minor quibble in what otherwise is an exciting and captivating work that evolves with the rhythm of the blues as it explores race, class, and family legacy.” Full Review
"Although it falls a bit short of Wilsonian stature, it's not hard to consider this always engrossing work, sizzlingly staged by Ruben Santiago-Hudson, the saloon drama the great playwright never wrote…Rather conventional plot. Things grow increasingly melodramatic, though, and the late accumulation of developments and their contrived resolution bring the play to an ending that, for all its shock value, is as hard to buy as a Saturday night orchestra seat to 'Hamilton.'" Full Review
"Morriseau is to be lauded not just for the show's much-needed history lesson (revealing a story about a part of Detroit in 1949 unfamiliar to most), but also for her prescient, timely reminder that female empowerment and racial equality have been issues for many decades and remain so to this day." Full Review
“One of those plays that feels powerful when you witness it, and starts to spur more and more questions of character and logic the farther you get from it...The actors throw themselves wholeheartedly into climactic moments, doing solid, emotionally connected work even when Morisseau’s script moves toward the neatness and sentiment of melodrama...Morisseau seems to give in to noir logic...I prefer the moments when, outside of archetype, I can see the play’s characters clearly.” Full Review
“Feels less like an improvisatory jazz number than a tightly structured opera...Blue is less interesting as a character than as a thematic totem...If the rest of the characters feel more deeply characterized, that may lie less in Morisseau's writing— than in the very fine actors who bring these ciphers to vivid life...Visual and aural imagination helps Morisseau's flawed but worthy drama sing even when we sometimes find ourselves too conscious of the notes she's trying to hit." Full Review
"The thin storyline takes a back seat to the rich language on display; like many a jazz composition, 'Paradise Blue' doesn't cohere very well, but there are some dazzling solos...The play feels very much alive anyway, thanks to Morisseau's prodigious gifts for language and creating small moments that register with significant emotional impact...'Paradise Blue' may be an imperfect play, but it's receiving a nearly perfect production." Full Review
"As with any show of pyrotechnics, a few of the explosives fizzle out prematurely, but most land with a kinetic energy that calls to mind August Wilson's poetically haunted blending of realism and expressionism, and novelist Alice Walker's forceful voice on behalf of black women...'Paradise Blue' could profit from another round of revision...Despite the occasional rickety bits, however, it is quite possible to see Dominique Morisseau as the heir apparent to August Wilson." Full Review
“The conclusion is a symbolic killing of a time and place as well as of an individual. If only the action made character sense too...Santiago-Hudson maintains an atmosphere of dramatic tension combined with humor derived from the characterizations...The production’s main attribute is the combination of performances that come from the excellent, well-chosen five cast members who can keep us enthralled even through the play’s assorted weak spots.” Full Review
“Clichés about women and artists are explored and exploited along the way. If ‘Blue’ is lacking in fresh insights, it compels us as a character study, thanks...to Ruben Santiago-Hudson’s robust and sensitive direction of a solid cast. Smith’s Corn is a standout...Battiste’s stubborn and wily P-Sam offers a fine contrast...As Blue, Nicholson brings charisma and poignance...The lessons in ‘Blue’ are hard...they leave plenty of room for debate after the curtain falls.” Full Review
"If the characters and set-up sound a little stock, Morisseau manages to elevate them with some pointed commentary and poetic turns of phrase. Her writing consistently elevates material that might otherwise seem pat...Ruben Santiago-Hudson stages the action, including the musical interludes, with a sure and steady hand — building to a climax that is suitably surprising even if it does not quite feel earned." Full Review
"As it stands, there's an awful lot packed into the show...Engaging though 'Paradise Blue' is, due to the typically excellent direction of Santiago-Hudson and an exceptionally strong and committed cast that's not above chewing a little scenery from time to time, I'd love to see it mounted again after some sharpening. A few revisions, I think, would nudge Paradise Blue beyond an enjoyable, engaging, and provocative stew into an absolutely dynamite piece of theater." Full Review
"Oddly in a play that features so much talk of jazz and poetry, the real estate story is the most compelling aspect...So overplays its genre tropes that the characters feel like incoherent afterthoughts. Especially in the second act, as the plot tries to wind itself into a climax, they stop making sense...The performances are hot and compelling in the way a five-alarm fire is, making you want to keep watching but also keep your distance...Feels like a work that merits deeper and longer recons... Full Review
"Morisseau’s ability to exploit the genre applies itself unevenly. Sometimes she’s got noir firmly in her grasp, while at other times, you realize that she hasn’t stage-managed all the necessary motives and confrontations...Still, the piece gets significantly better as it goes along, and the production has its own swing and strut...When 'Paradise Blue' is running smoothly, it smuggles its insights onstage under cover of pulpiness." Full Review
See it if You want a nuanced view of black people in a world that is constantly trying to push them out.
Don't see it if You don't want to get pulled into a narrative that will punch you in the gut by the end.
See it if you enjoy top notch theater that delivers compelling performances, a well written script with an arc, reminiscent of August Wilson. Great!
Don't see it if you don't enjoy explorations of life as an African American in Detroit.
See it if Top notch acting is the premiere reason you love theatre ! You enjoy realistic plays that grab you from the first moment & don’t let go !
Don't see it if You are looking for light drama that washes over you and demands nothing from you. A “happily ever after” play is your thing.
See it if To consider land use politics & the loss of Black wealth & womens' economic dependency impact on ability 4 men & women to be loving partners
Don't see it if You would not appreciate a Black centered storyline or a play about a woman finding her voice
See it if You love great storytelling, writing, directing, and acting. This play is a classic, with well-drawn characters, suspense, and payoff.
Don't see it if Not sure what to say here. There is no real reason not to see this.
See it if you like excellent theatre. Ms. Morisseau's script ripples with insight, humanity and desire. Acting top notch. And all that jazz!
Don't see it if you're looking for a children's show.
See it if For Depiction Blues in Detroit, love & tragedy..Great singing & acting. Surprise ending.
Don't see it if Uninterested in blues, slice of life stories of another time & place. Like light fluffy musicals.
See it if You're a fan of the playwright, or her influences, such as August Wilson. Blackbplays. Small plays. Detroit. Jazz. Gentrification topics.
Don't see it if There's a little singing. Staging is great; good views all around. "N" word is used and a gun. If those offend you, don't see, but, I
See it if 1949 black Detroit jazz club. Players try to save the club despite its owner’s mental illness. Deep characters & relationships. Good music.
Don't see it if You are looking for a lighter or happier story. You aren’t interested in issues of gentrification, mental illness, and female empowerment.
See it if If you are a fan of film noir (with a twist) and are fascinated by combining it with black slice of historical life drama
Don't see it if you prefer realism to moody poetic dramas with a sense of humor and irony.
See it if you care to see a supremely skillful playwright carrying on the torch of August Wilson (with the support of a five-star cast).
Don't see it if the sound of a gunshot is going to trigger you or you lack sympathy for mental health issues and people haunted by the demons of the past.
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