Chase Dean & Brandi LaShay in Pipeline. Photo:Redline
By Dominique Morriseau
Directed by Alonzo Raymont
A review by Kate Barry
Entire contents are copyright © 2023 by Kate Barry. All rights reserved.
A classroom. A teacher calls on a student. The student reacts. What follows are questions without answers and a search for a resolution. Redline Performing Arts has staged a passionate and real production of Dominque Morriseau’s contemporary masterpiece Pipeline. A tale of oppression full of tears and laughter, this relevant take on the education system pulsates with heartbreaking relevance.
Scenes of teacher-student attacks are played throughout the performance. Shocking at first, these video clips are presented with such a matter-of-fact tone that by the time we reach the final curtain, these scenes nearly give an impression of just another day. The play raises questions and harsh realities of privilege and education. In her first scene, Laurie, an older white teacher close to retirement pokes fun at other weaker-willed teachers and white-savior movies like Dangerous Minds. Played with tenacity by Sarah Tonini, a later scene shows the harshness of split-second decision-making in the high stakes of a school fight. Complaining to her peer and school security guard, Dun, played with vigor by Sadik Ibn Mohammed, the fiery argument reaches a fever pitch when the request for policy and procedure goes unanswered.
But it is the story of a high school student and his mother that make this play so riveting. Brandi LaShay as Nya and Chase Dean as Omari are equally forceful. Overwhelmed by anxiety in the classroom and the actions of her son, LaShay’s performance as Nya is steadfast and struggles to keep it all together. Omari faces his own battles. A young man facing unfair prejudices, Dean plays this character at a constant simmer, never far from boiling over. His lighter side appears in scenes with his girlfriend, Jasmine, played with affable ease by Louise Hopson. At the appearance of his estranged father (played impressively by Derek Palmer, a last-minute casting replacement), Dean lets go of restraint with a powerful speech about what it is to be tame and what it is to be captive.
LaShay and Dean share a pivotal late-night reunion. Talk of dinner and trivial things quickly shifts to a heavy emotional exchange. This scene is delicately executed as Dean’s Omari resists sharing and LaShay’s Nya literally begs him for understanding and resolution. While the play may not have a completely happy ending, they see a chance to rebuild their relationship.
Verbal emotional responses are encouraged for this play. Every laugh, the sound of agreement and recognition is perfectly merited in Pipeline. With a short run of only one weekend, this is surely a play that needs to be seen and talked about.
Featuring Brandi LaShay, Chase Dean, Louise Hopson, Derek Palmer, Sarah Tonini, Sadik Ibn Mohammed
February 24-26, 2023
Redline Performing Arts
The MeX Theater at The Kentucky Center
501 West Main Street
Louisville, KY 40202
Kate Barry has worked with many different companies around town since graduating in 08 from Bellarmine University. She’s worked with CenterStage, Kentucky Shakespeare Festival, Bunbury Theater, Louisville Repertory Company, Walden Theater, Finnigan Productions. She used to work in the box office at that little performing arts center on Main Street but now she helps save the planet. In 2012, her short play “PlayList” won festival favorite in the Finnigan Festival of Funky Fresh Fun. Her play “Catcher Released” won an honorable mention with the Kentucky Playwrites Workshop. She has written for LEO Weekly and TheatreLouisville.com as well. When she is not writing, she teaches yoga. Thanks for reading!