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  Pipeline Reviews

Victory Gardens Theater - Biograph
Thru - Mar 3, 2019

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Victory Gardens Theater - Biograph

  • Highly Recommended
  • Recommended
  • Somewhat Recommended
  • Not Recommended

Chicago Tribune- Recommended

"...But "Pipeline," a powerful showcase for Abercrumbie's formidable acting chops, is a potent, accessible, fair-minded piece of single-plotted writing, staged here by artists demonstrably dedicated to its pedagogy. In many of the scenes with the kids, it bristles with zest and indignant life - which helps make the point that many of the teenagers we lose have the restless minds and exuberant spirits our nation so badly needs."
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Chris Jones

Chicago Reader- Somewhat Recommended

"...But when Abercrumbie and Elam face off, it's breathtaking and heartbreaking. Nya's attempts to bridge the divide between what she knows as a teacher and what she fears as a mother leave her son hanging in the void. We don't know what Omari's first two "strikes" at the school were, but his description of the fateful classroom assault (later mirrored by Laurie's harrowing account of a fight between two boys in her classroom) shows us how quickly the pipeline can suck someone like Omari in, when it's just one bad day too many, one microaggression too far."
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Kerry Reid

Windy City Times- Somewhat Recommended

"...The play's title refers to the school-to-prison pipeline common to young adults of color, who historically face harsher consequences from teachers, administrators and the law. Nya and Omari's struggles are tragically frequent, but Morisseau doesn't quite know how to make them personal. As it stands, Pipeline is well-directed and even better-acted, but the source material is a host of unrealized potential. What could be powerful is, instead, meh."
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Lauren Emily Whalen

Time Out Chicago- Recommended

"...It’s frustrating, then, that so many of the performances in Cheryl Lynn Bruce’s production feel underdeveloped. Andrew Boyce’s brutalist schoolhouse set should double as a kind of gladiatorial arena where cast members can go toe to toe, but very rarely does anyone draw blood. Abercrumbie does great work capturing Nya’s slow nervous breakdown, and Brooks delivers a pair of pitch-perfect rants, but the rest of the cast falls short. Pipeline keeps returning to the notion of rage as a young black man’s inheritance, but the fury doesn’t come through in the performances. Given Chicago actors’ knack for high emotion, you’d think this production would at least have that part down."
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Alex Huntsberger

Chicago On the Aisle- Highly Recommended

"...Omari is 16, maybe 17 years old and he’s in serious trouble. He’s black, a bright kid, from a decent family. True, it’s a broken family. Omari’s mother, a high school teacher, and his father, a lawyer, are divorced. They’re good people. They send O – everybody calls him O – to a private school. The boy is deeply angry, and now he’s facing expulsion from school, and maybe much worse, for assaulting a teacher. This the perilous crux of Dominique Morisseau’s play “Pipeline,” on gripping display at Victory Gardens Theater."
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Lawrence B. Johnson

Stage and Cinema- Highly Recommended

"...The title of Pipeline refers to the much-reviled "school-to-prison" conduit that keeps minority kids from any outcome but incarceration, soft or hard. It's driven by a fatal fusion of low and self-fulfilling expectations of failure, endless and pointless discipline, and inadequate encouragement or alternatives to crime. Disadvantage can take many forms."
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Lawrence Bommer

Let's Play at ChicagoNow- Recommended

"...Let's Play recommend that you see ‘Pipeline' at Victory Gardens to enhance your experience and dialogue about a real problem that is plaguing our school system and the children of color within our society."
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Rick and Brenda McCain

NewCity Chicago- Highly Recommended

"...There is no doubt that America’s educational system has a race problem. There is also no doubt that it will continue to have a race problem until the country at large takes a long, hard look at itself. We can hope that through the arts that the country can shift and find equity. Evermore will we be grateful for Morisseau and companies like Victory Gardens that dare to speak truth to power."
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Amanda Finn

Chicago Theatre Review- Somewhat Recommended

"...The production is interesting and manages to shed some much-needed light on a hopeless situation. Morisseau's play shows the tragic path that leads young black men, either to prison or to an early death. It just feels disconnected and sometimes in a struggle to effectively drive the playwright's point home. The drama itself is frustratingly unresolved and, as such, not as completely satisfying to the audience for whom this drama is intended."
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Colin Douglas Highly Recommended

"...Pipeline also showcases Morisseau's prowess for examining the inner lives of interesting personalities, the forces that energize them as people, all against the contemporary societal backdrop. In Pipeline there is a specificity to these characters - six fully-formed individuals, no tropes or archetypes."
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Bill Esler

Third Coast Review- Recommended

"...Morisseau's script is direct, bold and poetic. (Her other plays include Paradise Blue, Skeleton Crew and Sunset Baby.) In Pipeline, her use of literary references as motifs enriches the story thread. In addition to the Native Son references, Nya teaches her class about black poetry. Using projections of a Gwendolyn Brooks poem, "We Real Cool," she demonstrates how the language looks and sounds more authentic when it's printed by an indie press in broken graffiti style than when it's published by a traditional publisher in a regular book font, evenly spaced and styled."
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Nancy Bishop

PicksInSix- Recommended

"...This piece is a conversation starter about attitudes between children and parents, students and administrators and a host of other elements in our at-risk communities and across our educational systems. It asks the questions: How do we know where to draw the line on discipline and behavior if the social lines of toleration keep wavering? How does social media impact those areas? And, what is the impact on our children if we do not get it right the first time? Although there is a hopeful conclusion, Morisseau drives home the point that before answers emerge, everyone must really listen to each other, or face the grim reality that it may already be too late."
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Ed Tracy

Picture This Post- Highly Recommended

"...A brilliant ensemble honestly portrays a life that many of us will never have to experience. For 90 minutes we are immersed in an array of perspectives that one hopes will help create much needed empathy and support for those directly involved and affected by our public school system. This is an especially timely play, in this writer's view. We need dialogue about the epidemic that is swallowing so many of our country's youth and channeling them from failed schools into prison. Pipeline tells this story and tells it well."
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Jordan Rome