A Review of the Play 'Pipeline'

Last Thursday, my First-year Writing class attended a performance of Pipeline at the Penumbra Theater in St. Paul. Our class had read the play before going and were comparing the text with the performance. Pipeline is about the school to prison pipeline in American schools. It was written by Dominique Morisseau, a young woman of color who is an actress and playwright from Detroit, Michigan. She has written many plays depicting modern issues in politics such as activism, crime and gentrification.

A blackboard in the hall of Penumbra Theatre about uplifting youth. Photo taken by Evelyn Harrison.

In Pipeline, the main character, a young man named Omari, gets into an altercation with a teacher that is filmed and shared on social media. He goes to a private school outside of the city and is at risk of expulsion and possibly criminal charges. The play revolves around the falling out of his actions and how it affects the people in his life. 

My favorite character was Nya, Omari’s mother. Throughout the play, Nya is looking for Omari and seeks to understand his emotions about the incident and his father, her ex-husband. She is conflicted between anger and resentment about what her son did and deep love and need for her son to be a part of her life. Nya takes on the stress and worry about Omari so much and we see her transform into a protective force for him. I enjoyed watching her dynamic performance as a mother who loves her son to the end of the Earth. At the pivotal point in the play she is quoted saying, “I will take a bullet for you. I will suffocate the sun for you. I will steal the sky for you. I will blind Moses for you. I will strip the wind and the rain and the forests for you. Before I will let you die or rot or lose your freedom, I will surrender my own” (Morisseau 54-55). These lines stick out as the point where we realize just how deep her unconditional love is for Omari. 

I personally loved the play. It was heartbreaking and upsetting at some points, but it was gripping and wonderfully performed. All the actors were super talented and brought life to the characters I had read in class. The play was an in-depth look at how people of color experience school differently than others and how the justice system works to force certain groups down instead of uplifting youth in schools. Pipeline is highly rated and has just been extended into the beginning of November. I would very much recommend attending a performance soon!