Windy City Media Group Frontpage News
Celebrating 30 Years of Gay Lesbian Bisexual and Trans News
home search facebook twitter join
Gay News Sponsor Windy City Times 2019-07-10
About WCMG Publications News Index  Entertainment Features Bars & Clubs Calendar Videos Advertisers OUT! Guide    Marriage



by Lauren Emily Whalen

facebook twitter pin it google +1 reddit email

Playwright: Dominique Morisseau

At: Victory Gardens Theater, 2433 N. Lincoln Ave.. Tickets: $27-60; . Runs through: March 3

Thinking about Pipeline, here's what comes to mind: two incredible supporting characters and a Gwendolyn Brooks poem.

Considering the play is about a Black mother and her teenage son, that's problematic.

Playwright Dominique Morisseau is a MacArthur Fellow, whose musical based on The Temptations, Ain't Too Proud to Beg, is Broadway-bound. Clearly, she has chops. But in the case of Pipeline, Morisseau may have gotten bogged down in the responsibility of telling a very important and very universal story —and as a result, the two characters the audience is supposed to care about the most are relegated to character types without much nuance.

Nya ( Tyla Abercrumbie ) is a single mom who teaches in a large urban public school. However, she and her ex-husband Xavier ( Mark Spates Smith ) have chosen to send their own son to an exclusive private academy upstate so Omari ( Matthew Elam ) can have more opportunities. But when Omari faces expulsion for an altercation and swears he was provoked, primary parent Nya is forced to confront her teen's actions and her own expectations versus the harsh reality of being Black in America.

The short Brooks poem "We Real Cool" is the play's through-line. That's a good idea in theory as the poem looks at young Black men engaging in adolescent shenanigans and paying the price with their lives. In practice, however, Morisseau's writing of Nya and Omari pales in comparison to Brooks' spare, intense verse. The narrators of Brooks' poem speak few words but feel completely real, in sharp contrast to the worried Black mother and her son who is justifiably angry at a world who has set him up to fail—timely to be sure, but more stand-ins than living, breathing individuals. Though Nya and Omari share several scenes, their relationship and history feel undefined at best: we mostly see them arguing followed by a resolution that doesn't feel earned.

Director Cheryl Lynn Bruce was most recently seen onstage in Steppenwolf's Familiar. She does her best with the shadowy characterizations, and stages balletic scene transitions that are lovely to behold. Abercrumbie and Elam, both fine actors, make a palpable effort to flesh out mother and son.

As a playwright, Morisseau fares much better with her supporting characters: namely, Nya's colleague Laurie ( Janet Ulrich Brooks ) and Omari's girlfriend Jasmine ( Aurora Real de Asua ). The former is a bombastic, worn-out teacher who's just returned from medical leave after enduring violence from a student's family. Her tough talk and gallows humor make for a funny, fascinating character and Brooks nails every syllable. Real de Asua's Jasmine, along with Omari is one of the private school's few nonwhite students. Jasmine actually has a believable character arc as well as the blind love and strange precociousness of teen girls everywhere, and the actress has repeatedly proven her knack for portraying high schoolers ( Goodman's The Wolves, Rivendell's Firebirds Take the Field ).

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.

facebook twitter pin it google +1 reddit email

Windy City Media Group does not approve or necessarily agree with the views posted below.
Please do not post letters to the editor here. Please also be civil in your dialogue.
If you need to be mean, just know that the longer you stay on this page, the more you help us.


Gay News

Goodman Theatre announces 2019/2020 season 2019-07-18 - ( Chicago, IL ) Goodman Theatre announces the casting and creative teams for its 2019/2020 "Theater That Moves" Season openers. The season kicks-off ...

Gay News

THEATER True West 2019-07-17 - Playwright: Sam Shepard At: Steppenwolf Theatre, 1650 N. Halsted St. Tickets: Runs through: Aug. 25 What is the "true west?" Deserts ...

Gay News

First Floor Theater to begin Season 8 with Sugar in Our Wounds 2019-07-17 - By Donja R. Love, Directed by FFT Company Member Mikael Burke, October 19, 2019 - November 23, 2019 On a plantation during ...

Gay News

Promethean's 14th season to explore status of women, societies past, imagined 2019-07-17 - The rights and roles of women in society will be examined in Promethean Theatre Ensemble's 2019-20 season via three plays all penned or ...

Gay News

Barrel of Monkeys Presents Free Summer Workshops, Performances 2019-07-17 - CHICAGO ( July 16, 2019 ) — Barrel of Monkeys, one of Chicago's leaders in arts education, will present free creative writing workshops ...

Gay News

THEATER REVIEW Wolf Play 2019-07-17 - Playwright: Hansol Jung At: The Gift Theatre, 4802 N. Milwaukee, Chicago. Tickets: Runs through: Aug 18 The Gift Theatre's midwest premiere ...

Gay News

THEATER Strange Heart Beating 2019-07-16 - Playwright: Kristin Idaszak At: Cloudgate Theatre at the Frontier, 1106 W. Thorndale Ave. Tickets:; $5-$45. Runs through: July 28 There's potential for ...

Gay News

THEATER REVIEW The Drag Seed 2019-07-15 - Author: David Cerda Directed by: Cheryl Snodgrass. At: Mary's Attic, 5400 N. Clark St. Tickets: : $20-44; Runs through: Aug. 24 ...

Gay News

Auditorium Theatre receives Outstanding Historic Theatre Award 2019-07-15 - ( CHICAGO, IL ) On July 14, 2019, the Auditorium Theatre received the League of Historic American Theatres' ( LHAT ) Outstanding Historic ...

Gay News

THEATER REVIEW King Lear 2019-07-10 - Playwright: William Shakespeare At: Redtwist Theatre, 1044 W. Bryn Mawr Ave. Tickets: and 773-728-7529; $35-$40. Runs through: Aug. 4 What ...


Copyright © 2019 Windy City Media Group. All rights reserved.
Reprint by permission only. PDFs for back issues are downloadable from
our online archives. Single copies of back issues in print form are
available for $4 per issue, older than one month for $6 if available,
by check to the mailing address listed below.

Return postage must accompany all manuscripts, drawings, and
photographs submitted if they are to be returned, and no
responsibility may be assumed for unsolicited materials.
All rights to letters, art and photos sent to Nightspots
(Chicago GLBT Nightlife News) and Windy City Times (a Chicago
Gay and Lesbian News and Feature Publication) will be treated
as unconditionally assigned for publication purposes and as such,
subject to editing and comment. The opinions expressed by the
columnists, cartoonists, letter writers, and commentators are
their own and do not necessarily reflect the position of Nightspots
(Chicago GLBT Nightlife News) and Windy City Times (a Chicago Gay,
Lesbian, Bisexual and Transegender News and Feature Publication).

The appearance of a name, image or photo of a person or group in
Nightspots (Chicago GLBT Nightlife News) and Windy City Times
(a Chicago Gay, Lesbian, Bisexual and Transgender News and Feature
Publication) does not indicate the sexual orientation of such
individuals or groups. While we encourage readers to support the
advertisers who make this newspaper possible, Nightspots (Chicago
GLBT Nightlife News) and Windy City Times (a Chicago Gay, Lesbian
News and Feature Publication) cannot accept responsibility for
any advertising claims or promotions.







About WCMG Publications News Index  Entertainment Features Bars & Clubs Calendar Videos Advertisers OUT! Guide    Marriage

About WCMG      Contact Us      Online Front  Page      Windy City  Times      Nightspots      OUT! Guide     
Identity      BLACKlines      En La Vida      Archives      Subscriptions      Distribution      Windy City Queercast     
Queercast Archives      Advertising  Rates      Deadlines      Advanced Search     
Press  Releases      Event Photos      Join WCMG  Email List      Email Blast     
Upcoming Events      Todays Events      Ongoing Events      Post an Event      Bar Guide      Community Groups      In Memoriam      Outguide Categories      Outguide Advertisers      Search Outguide      Travel      Dining Out      Blogs      Spotlight  Video     
Classifieds      Real Estate      Place a  Classified     

Windy City Media Group publishes Windy City Times,
The Bi-Weekly Voice of the Gay, Lesbian, Bisexual and Trans Community.
5315 N. Clark St. #192, Chicago, IL 60640-2113 • PH (773) 871-7610 • FAX (773) 871-7609.