Sunday, August 6, 2017

Off-BroadwayTheater Review: Pipelne TOP PICK

Karen Pittman (foreground) and Namir Smallwood. Photo: Jeremy Daniel
By Dominique Morisseau
Directed by Lileana Blain-Cruz
Lincoln Center
Through Aug. 27

By Lauren Yarger
What's It All About?
Dominique Morriseau's touching study of a mother trying to give her son a better life in the midst of a system stacked against him. Nya Joseph (an intense Karen Pittman) teaches a a public, inner-city high school while sending her son, Omari (Namir Smallwood) to private boarding school. When African-American Omari is provoked during a discussion of Richard Wright's "Native Son", attacks his white teacher and is threatened with expulsion form the school, Nya's world begins to fall apart and she makes some sacrifices. She reaches out to Omari's less-than-polished girlfriend, Jasmine (Heather Velazquez) and the boy's estranged father, Xavier (Morocco Omari), for help. The one who really needs help, however, is Nya who can't take the stress of seeing her son's chances being taken away as the "pipeline" which steers underprivileged kids from inner-city schools to prison seems to be winning. Her friends, school security guard Dun (Jamie Lincoln Smith) and teacher colleague, Laurie (Tasha Lawrence) try to help, but there may not be a solution here.

What Are the Highlights?
Excellent direction by Lileana Blain-Cruz and a riveting performance by Pittman propel the taut storytelling and lyrical prose of Morriseau's work (which packs a punch in 90 minutes with no intermission).  Lawrence (If I Forget, The Whale, Good People) is a pistol -- no a machine gun -- as the fed-up educator who expresses scathing opinions about her charges that teachers everywhere probably wish they could say.

Morriseau (Skeleton Crew) distinguishes herself here as a playwright to watch. Her development of character is expert. We learn so much about Omari and Jasmine, for example, just in a metaphor where he compares her to a metamorphic rock.

The show attracted a younger, much more diverse audience for the matinee I attended and the young people, many of whom appeared to be on school trips, were engaged throughout without the usual clowning around or phone use during the show that can be typical of these kind of audiences.

Matt Saunders' set is so realistic, right down to the Linoleum, that it looks as though it were salvaged from an old school. A few props are pushed on to change locations.

What Are the Lowlights?
A lack of resolution -- but perhaps that is a statement about society's problems in general.

More Information:
Pipeline educates through Aug. 27 at Lincoln Center's Mitzi E. Newhouse Theater, 150 West 65th St.

Additional credits:
Costumes by Montana Levi Blanco, Lighting by Yi Zhao, Sound by Justin Ellington, Projections by Hannah Wasileski

-- God's name taken in vain
-- Derogatory racial word used
-- Language

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Our reviews are professional reviews written without a religious bias. At the end of them, you can find a listing of language, content or theological issues that Christians might want to know about when deciding which shows to see.

** Mature indicates that the show has posted an advisory because of content. Usually this means I would recommend no one under the age of 16 attend.

Theater Critic Lauren Yarger

Theater Critic Lauren Yarger

My Bio

Lauren Yarger has written, directed and produced numerous shows and special events for both secular and Christian audiences. She co-wrote a Christian musical version of “A Christmas Carol” which played to sold-out audiences of over 3,000 in Vermont and was awarded the Vermont Bessie (theater and film awards) for “People’s Choice for Theatre.” She also has written two other dinner theaters, sketches for church services and devotions for Christian artists. Her play concept, "From Reel to Real: The Jennifer O'Neill Story" was presented as part of the League of professional Theatre Women's Julia's reading Room Series in New York. Shifting from reviewing to producing, Yarger owns Gracewell Productions, which produced the Table Reading Series at the Palace Theater in Waterbury, CT. She trained for three years in the Broadway League’s Producer Development Program, completed the Commercial Theater Institute's Producing Intensive and other training and produced a one-woman musical about Mary Magdalene that toured nationally and closed with an off-Broadway run. She was a Fellow at the National Critics Institute at the O'Neill Theater Center in Waterford, CT. She wrote reviews of Broadway and Off-Broadway theater (the only ones you can find in the US with an added Christian perspective) at

She is editor of The Connecticut Arts Connection (, an award-winning website featuring theater and arts news for the state. She was a contributing editor for She previously served as theater reviewer for the Manchester Journal-Inquirer, Connecticut theater editor for and as Connecticut and New York reviewer for American Theater Web.

She is a Co-Founder of the Connecticut Chapter of the League of Professional Theatre Women. She is a former vice president and voting member of The Drama Desk.

She is a freelance writer and playwright (member Dramatists Guild of America). She is a member if the The Outer Critics Circle (producer of the annual awards ceremony) and a member of The League of Professional Theatre Women, serving as Co-Founder of the Connecticut Chapter. Yarger was a book reviewer for Publishers Weekly A former newspaper editor and graduate of the University of Missouri’s School of Journalism, Yarger also worked in arts management for the Bushnell Center for the Performing Arts, the Hartford Symphony Orchestra and served for nine years as the Executive Director of Masterwork Productions, Inc. She lives with her husband in West Granby, CT. They have two adult children.


All material is copyright 2008- 2022 by Lauren Yarger. Reviews and articles may not be reprinted without permission. Contact


Key to Content Notes:

God's name taken in vain -- means God or Jesus is used in dialogue without speaking directly to or about them.

Language -- means some curse words are used. "Minor" usually means the words are not too strong or that it only occurs once or twice throughout the show.

Strong Language -- means some of the more heavy duty curse words are used.

Nudity -- means a man or woman's backside, a man's lower front or a woman's front are revealed.

Scantily clad -- means actors' private areas are technically covered, but I can see a lot of them.

Sexual Language -- means the dialogue contains sexually explicit language but there's no action.

Sexual Activity -- means a man and woman are performing sexual acts.

Adultery -- Means a married man or woman is involved sexually with someone besides their spouse. If this is depicted with sexual acts on stage, the list would include "sexual activity" as well.

Sex Outside of Marriage -- means a man and woman are involved sexually without being married. If this is depicted sexually on stage, the list would include "sexual activity" as well.

Homosexuality -- means this is in the show, but not physically depicted.

Homosexual activity -- means two persons of the same sex are embracing/kissing. If they do more than that, the list would include "sexual activity" as well.

Cross Dresser -- Means someone is dressing as the opposite sex. If they do more than that on stage the listing would include the corresponding "sexual activity" and/or "homosexual activity" as well.

Cross Gender -- A man is playing a female part or a woman is playing a man's part.

Suggestive Dancing -- means dancing contains sexually suggestive moves.

Derogatory (category added Fall 2012) Language or circumstances where women or people of a certain race are referred to or treated in a negative and demeaning manner.

Other content matters such as torture, suicide, or rape will be noted, with details revealed only as necessary in the review itself.

The term "throughout" added to any of the above means it happens many times throughout the show.

Reviewing Policy

I receive free seats to Broadway and Off-Broadway shows made available to all voting members of the Outer Critics Circle. Journalistically, I provide an unbiased review and am under no obligation to make positive statements. Sometimes shows do not make tickets available to reviewers. If these are shows my readers want to know about I will purchase a ticket. If a personal friend is involved in a production, I'll let you know, but it won't influence a review. If I feel there is a conflict, I won't review their portion of the production.

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