Lincoln Center Theater presents the world premiere of Dominique Morisseau's drama about how a mother’s hopes for her son clash with an educational system rigged against him. More…
Nya, an inner-city public high school teacher, is committed to her students but desperate to give her only son Omari opportunities they’ll never have. When a controversial incident at his upstate private school threatens to get him expelled, Nya must confront his rage and her own choices as a parent. But will she be able to reach him before a world beyond her control pulls him away?
"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
"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
"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 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
"'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 up-to-the-minute, honest, and hard-hitting look at race, class, and the education system in the United States…Intensely intelligent and powerful…Morisseau…and Obie-winning director Lileana Blain-Cruz never allow the play to become overly preachy or pedantic…The relationships between the characters are fully believable as Morisseau steers clear of genre clichés…‘Pipeline’ is a poetic indictment of institutionalized societal constraints, a lesson we all need to learn.” Full Review
"From Dominique Morisseau, the author of the critically acclaimed 'Skeleton Crew,' 'Detroit '67' and 'Sunset Baby,' comes another powerfully provocative and riveting, but overwrought, play which investigates black rage, racial stereotyping, and parental mistakes. Just try to take your eyes off the high octane production by Lileana Blain-Cruz, which has been brilliantly cast with its six actors, all but Karen Pittman (the Pulitzer Prize-winning Disgraced) making their Lincoln Center Theater de... 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
"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
"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
"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
"Though playwright Dominique Morisseau’s people are confused and greatly impotent, they’re also articulate, facilitating empathy...The firebrand piece is as angry and frustrated as its protagonists. Without an answer, Morisseau leaves both them and us in the lurch, hoping for understanding. Writing is tight and vivid. The company is terrific, each and every actor delivering from the gut. Time passes quickly with nothing less than riveted attention." Full Review
"Morisseau's eloquence and Lileana Blain-Cruz’s fine-tuned direction examine an all-too familiar headline of school violence...With an excellent mother/teacher depiction of Nya by Pittman, dressed neat and hip in jeans and shirts by Montana Levi Blanco, the blue-chip supporting cast fits the bill...'Pipeline' explores the wars waging in that school world. It astutely adds the emotional urgency of one teacher...but this play is about questions. We still have to supply the answers." 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
"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
"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
“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
"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
“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
"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
"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
"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
"Morisseau’s engrossing but somewhat undercooked new play offers a keen character study of a mother and son whose lives are imperiled by a reckless and passionate choice, but fails to fully integrate the specifics of Nya and Omari’s situation within the broader context of the school-to-prison pipeline that lends the play its title…A finely oiled production, but I could not help feeling that Morisseau did not push the material to its limits." 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
"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
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 like intense family drama, care about race relations, relate to concerns about kids education.
Don't see it if you're only interested in comedy, or are looking for something light.
See it if you're interested in a well-acted show about current problems of school, family and violence among young black teenagers
Don't see it if you're not interested in a show that delves into racial problems in the educational system
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 you know a teenager! Such a beautiful play about parents & children- about feeling angry, lost, and unsure of how to connect with a child
Don't see it if you are put off by a mixture of realistic and poetic dialogue.
See it if You want a most absorbing evening, the writing,acting and staging are perfect..90 minutes of great theater a very interesting audience
Don't see it if This is nothing to sleep through. The playwright is right on the money. Pay attention
See it if you are passionate about commentary on the public school system in relation to race relations; you've never been to a Lincoln Center show
Don't see it if you might be triggered by discussions of violence
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 want to see a well written and acted show about high school students coping with their education and parents. Very topical.
Don't see it if you don't care about the plight of high school students.
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 are interested in exploring the multiple causes of the pipeline-to-prison phenomenon thoughtfully - without pat answers. Fine acting!
Don't see it if ...you're looking for something light and bubbly.
See it if you like intelligent well-written, well-acted, thought-provoking drama on a topical subject.
Don't see it if you want light-hearted plays with little or no message or dramatic impact.
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