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"Lacks the driving coherence of Morisseau’s earlier work. But it confirms her reputation as a playwright of piercing eloquence. She bravely dives into the muddled shadows of social issues often presented in cold statistics and cleanly drawn graphs...'Pipeline' is more confused in its depiction of its characters’ confusions, and not every scene is equally resonant or convincing...Where the production excels is in portraying the bleak fatalism in which its characters appear to be steeped." Full Review
"Karen Pittman is giving a sensational performance in the new play 'Pipeline'...Dominique Morisseau has written some quietly devastating social dramas on her way up, but now the playwright has definitely arrived with this emotionally harrowing, ethically ambiguous drama that raises barbed questions about class, race, parental duty, and the state of American education. Credit Lileana Blain-Cruz for the excellent tech work, as well as for the terrific ensemble work of a small, tight company." Full Review
"A play that sometimes suggests a dramatized essay...Only 85 minutes long, 'Pipeline' sometimes feels thin on elaboration, and not all of its scenes are effective...But in dealing with subjects overfreighted with the weight of representation, the play leaves admirable space for discussion...In a system clogged with rot, it’s encouraging to think that hope may be somewhere in the works." Full Review
"Thorny debates within complex social structures are never lacking in Morisseau's work...The only pitfall is that the characters in 'Pipeline' take a backseat to the ideas they're there to present, giving the impression that we're hearing the voice of the playwright rather than her characters. However, it's hard to wish any of her monologues away— each one its own work of poetry...Blain-Cruz and her creative team lean into the lyricism of Morisseau's writing, even as plot starts to sputter." Full Review
"Feels more like a sociology thesis than a play...The show has little dramatic urgency...While there are some powerful moments, 'Pipeline' overall fails to come to life...Morisseau seems to be reaching for a profundity that 'Pipeline' never attains. The stylistically awkward drama works best in its quieter, smaller moments...The ensemble delivers first-rate performances. But their efforts are not enough for 'Pipeline' to smack of little more than well-intentioned seriousness." Full Review
"The play addresses a severe social problem—the conditions which contribute to high rates of violence among young black men—in a fresh and smart manner. Part of what makes 'Pipeline' impactful is Morisseau’s storytelling...From the start, we are engaged with Morisseau’s characters...The glue of the play is Pittman, who is marvelous...Director Lileana Blain-Cruz once again does an impressive job...'Pipeline' showcases an American playwright in full blaze." Full Review
"Morisseau masterfully upends the tired assumptions that might attach to such a drama, in a play that is not just smart and engaging, it is also the most literate of any I’ve seen this year...All six characters in 'Pipeline' are given their due, aided immeasurably by some outstanding performances...We are treated to Morisseau’s gifts, which include not just her compassionate portrayals and an easygoing grasp of literary poetry, but her exquisite ear for delightful everyday poetry." Full Review
“Sharply written, vividly acted, but somewhat uneven…The pipeline issues, while certainly real, don't seem that well connected to the family drama…And one wonders why the otherwise verbally adept Omari - with his well-educated parents communicating in excellent English - speaks in ungrammatical homeboy locutions…Blain-Cruz keeps the pace brisk and the energy fierce as her actors engage in a series of high-temperature confrontations, often abandoning naturalism for poetic realism.” Full Review
“The arena-style seating provides the perfect vantage point for the grudge matches, gut punches and emotional jabs of Dominique Morisseau’s poignant ‘Pipeline’…The casting of Mr. Smallwood as Omari is a risk that mostly pays off. He brings sensitivity and intensity to each of his scenes, and is no less than stunning in that climactic confrontation with Xavier. But, being in his mid-30s, there was not one moment where I actually believed he was a high school student.” Full Review
"With the smashing world premiere of 'Pipeline' Morisseau confirms her place in the sphere of writers not to be ignored…She has given every character genuine moments of grace with monologues that simply soar with specificity of circumstance and intensity of feeling…What’s most impressive, however, is the voice the playwright gives to the two young people...I believed every word they spoke and where it came from. That’s a rare achievement, indeed." Full Review
"The cast is outstanding; Blain-Cruz has found a theatrically satisfying way into the social and political points Morisseau is making...The characters overall are somewhat too convenient stand-ins for the issues that inspired the play. Fortunately, the acting and staging is good enough to make us buy into seeing everyone as real flesh and blood people...I found that the author reached a bit too hard for metaphoric lyricism...Yet the lesson itself is wonderfully pertinent and theatrical." Full Review
"It’s a compelling few minutes in an equally compelling play, one that borders on cliche but doesn’t fall victim to that trap. The cast won’t let it fall...The two-character scenes are what make this piece tick with such wild lyrical poetry and abandon. They are the dynamics that mostly populate this dissertation on race, rage, and the Black American existence, and tend to be the most powerful." Full Review
"Ninety minutes is just not enough time and space for all the pain, trauma, and injustice that Morisseau loads into her new play...In the play’s most harrowing scene—and there are a few—Laurie returns to do battle in the classroom...The scenes with Jasmine are the weakest in 'Pipeline.' Morisseau has the two teenage characters say things that sound like something an adult wishes she had said in her youth...Blain-Cruz’s direction puts the drama of 'Pipeline' on a grand stage." Full Review
"The acting is uniformly strong...The characters are vividly drawn...The elevated, rather poetic style of speech the playwright occasionally turns to has the effect of making the characters sound more alike than they should. There are individual scenes that are wonderful, but they don’t cohere into as satisfying a whole as I would have wished...The direction by Lileana Blain-Cruz is unfussy and assured. Although I have some reservations, I found the play well worth seeing." Full Review
"Providing insight into an important societal issue while also deftly exploring the stories of individual, well-drawn characters has quickly become the trademark of the extremely gifted playwright Dominique Morriseau. Her latest–and perhaps strongest work–'Pipeline,' now being given an exemplary production under Lileana Blain-Cruz’s nuanced direction, continues that tradition brilliantly." Full Review
"With empathy and intelligence, Morisseau is able to get beneath the skin of her characters, give voice to their pain and rage, and breathe them fully into life...As the narrative unfolds in the 90-minute, intermissionless production, so well acted under Lileana Blain-Cruz' tension-filled direction, the play is just about flawless. The playwright is exceptionally adroit at peeling back layer after layer of meaning." Full Review
"I submit willingly to a drama like 'Pipeline' because, for all the conflict and angst among its characters, each portrait feels true, and justified and genuine...Dominique Morisseau’s intense and poetic new play ...'Pipeline' powers through its 90 minutes under the steady direction of Lileana Blain-Cruz...Pittman is dynamic, a multifaceted and relatable character." Full Review
"The company is terrific, each and every actor delivering from the gut. Time passes quickly with nothing less than riveted attention. Director Lleana Blain-Cruz handles the mostly empty stage with its three-sided audience aware of every turn and view. Eruptions grab and startle, wrenching but never over the top." Full Review
“Morisseau...bites off more than she can comfortably chew in 90 minutes…But the main fault in this production is less with the text than with the direction. Morisseau's work cries out for the kind of vibrant naturalism that Ruben Santiago-Hudson gave ‘Skeleton Crew.’ But 'Pipeline' has been staged by Lileana Blain-Cruz who tends to favor a more stripped-down expressionism…'Pipeline' is seriously under-pruned. And the casting is also a bit off." Full Review
"'Pipeline' is a riveting new drama by Dominique Morisseau that specifically deals with issues of race and education. But as great plays are wont to do, it paints a mirror that reflects on all of us...Wielding her pen as if a scalpel, she slices deeply to the core of each of her characters. And director Lileana Blain-Cruz stages the simple yet powerful production with expert finesse. It's hard to imagine a better ensemble." Full Review
"An intense and powerful play that is thought-provoking, but nothing new...The play doesn’t always work, albeit director Lileana Blain-Cruz does her utmost to flesh out the powerful portrayals...The cast is compelling but the choice of Namir Smallwood (an intensely brilliant actor) appears miscast as he is too old for the role of a teenager." Full Review
"Morisseau and director Lileana Blain-Cruz opt for an over-heated, melodramatic approach that repeatedly lapses into cliché...Smallwood, an actor in his thirties, also struggles to play a convincing teenager. Karen Pittman is more plausible as his mother Nya...But their hectoring exchanges tend to sound scripted...As with Morisseau’s allusions to 'The Wire' and 'Native Son,' the weaknesses of her own play here become all the more glaring in comparison." Full Review
"A bit of a muddle...The play has smart things to say about what it might mean to be a young black man in a largely white environment. If only 'Pipeline' didn't also feel so preachy and predetermined -- like a play written to make a point rather than tell a story. Morisseau remains a writer to watch, especially for the deft way she engages in a cultural dialogue within her plays. Yet it seems unlikely that 'Pipeline' will be remembered as among her best work." Full Review
"This is an important topic, especially in our city...Morisseau's play doesn't tackle this subject head-on; instead, it's more oblique and focuses on an African-American mother's anxiety over the future of her son...This should be riveting...But instead, the show meanders...Not enough dots are connected here...By the end, it feels like a play that could use more development time to better zero in on character motivations and plot points." Full Review
“Morisseau’s powerful, passionate, and intelligent new play…Velazquez and Lawrence ride these characters’ wildly efflorescent outbursts with a blend of smart know-how and the raucous excitement of teens on a roller coaster…Smith and Omari give subtly shaded performances, elegantly counterbalancing the more demonstrative female roles…This is not a facile message drama about the pathway from school to prison, but a tragedy.” Full Review
See it if you're up for an emotionally provocative & visually powerful rumination on contemporary issues (parenting, education, social media)
Don't see it if you need your social issue plays to have emphatic political stances and/or resolute narrative closure
See it if You are interested in work about black families and their struggles in society.
Don't see it if You think this is a hot-button play focusing on the ineffectual US education system. It's just the setting for a predictable family drama.
See it if you want to see a show that brings together the personal & the political in a uniquely powerful show with humor, guts and heart.
Don't see it if You don't want to be challenged, or you simply love romantic comedies.
See it if you want to see a well-acted, thought-provoking play featuring a stellar lead performance by Karen Pittman.
Don't see it if you want a lighthearted or extravagantly staged production.
See it if You want to see an inferior effort from the author of Skeleton Crew, but appreciate fine acting particularly Pittman, & poetic language.
Don't see it if You have had enough of this particular brand of social commentary - although the politics align with mine, there is nothing new here.
See it if you want to see Namir Smallwood's outstanding performance as a troubled teen. The subplot of the other teacher was outstanding. Best part.
Don't see it if you don't like dramas or show that give characters rationalized allowances for poor choices. Especially adults.
See it if you value brilliant new voices presenting deeply thoughtful and important content and beautifully crafted characters.
Don't see it if racial, societal and complex family issues make you uncomfortable or you fear leaving the play knowing you will have to think and feel.
See it if Morisseau's indictment of society's internalized racism via education system Using Wright's Native Son as template, it's brutally effective
Don't see it if Despite Blaine-Cruz's taut staging & a fantastic ensemble led by Pittman, a tendency to speechify creeps in harming the writing's beauty
See it if You are interested in plays that explore socially relevant topics like race, SES, acts of violence, and the role of educators
Don't see it if You want pure escapism and a light topic production; get headaches easily from florescent lights
See it if You are interested in the problems of students fighting prejudices, both imagined and real. Broken family strife.inner city education.
Don't see it if You are tired of the same educational issues nature v nurture. Cannot sit without an intermission. Dislike teen violence.
Also The acting is terrific! The retiring white teacher is spot on!!
See it if you want to see a very complex and incisive look at the black experience in today's America, that's deadly serious but never didactic.
Don't see it if you're looking for escapism. This holds the mirror up to our society extremely effectively and pretty devastatingly.
See it if you enjoy socially relevant plays that speak directly to the current educational system and marginalized young minds.
Don't see it if you are in search of light fare.
See it if you read Ta-Tehisi Coates Between the World & Me, this play is a dramatization some his messages and it is just as insightful.
Don't see it if you are not ready to have your assumptions challenged and ready to fully appreciate that everyone does not experience the world the same way
See it if you're interested in how race, gender and parenting play into our education system. Plus there'a great performance by Karen Pittman.
Don't see it if you're expecting a deep meditation or analysis of said topics.
See it if You want to see a well written, dramatic show that makes you feel deeply for the characters. Extremely moving
Don't see it if You don't want to think and possibly made to feel uncomfortable.
See it if you want to be challenged and placed in a situation where the only choice is to face some difficult questions, you want something relevant
Don't see it if you are uncomfortable with discussions of race, you dont enjoy being close to performers, or if you want to leave happy and satisfied
See it if you're interested in a family drama about the African-American middle class.
Don't see it if you're averse to video projections that often seem superfluous and a poeticized street language.
See it if A riviting and thought-provoking insight into the dysfunctions of education system, society and families and resulting rage is for you.
Don't see it if If explicit and repressed rage make you too tense or if you are looking for light theater.