Two young black men, Moses (Christopher Lovell) and Kitch (Jalen Jamar Gilbert) stand on a street corner, shooting the breeze and sharing their dreams about one day “passing over” into a world of plenty, comfort, and safety—into the “promised land” of the American dream.
Playwright Antoinette Nwandu synthesizes a variety of experiences—both personal and communal, triumphant and traumatizing—to construct a living, breathing theatrical tour de force.
As events unfold, it becomes clear that larger, more powerful forces are at work in shaping the men’s story. Whether ducking random gunfire or attempting to placate an out-of-control cop (Cary Donaldson), Moses and Kitch inhabit a place of brutality and want—far from the riches of the promised land that they and generations of black men have been denied. A makeshift memorial of flowers and a stuffed animal bear witness to the lives that ended on that same corner—those of other men with their own unfulfilled dreams of “passing over.”
And then he appears. Mister (Donaldson), is a tall, blond, white man, dressed in a seersuckers suit, carrying a picnic basket—a surreal addition to this inner-city street corner, but starkly representative of much of white America, falsely assuming to understand and empathize with a community it mostly ignores.
Mister’s obliviousness slowly unfolds in his attempts to interact with the men, but the arrogance he quietly harbors is made apparent in a sudden and startling outburst. It is his indifference, however, his inability to see the three men’s shared humanity that makes him complicit in the racism, the structural inequalities, and the sheer pettiness of a system that has trapped Moses and Kitch—and countless others— in a perpetual cycle of poverty and violence.
Playwright Antoinette Nwandu synthesizes a variety of experiences—both personal and communal, triumphant and traumatizing—to construct a living, breathing theatrical tour de force. Director Pslamayene 24 has assembled a trio of notably gifted actors who evoke the depth and breadth of a story that incorporates civil rights imagery and religious symbolism, with a nod to the theatre of the absurd, a theatrical movement that produced Samuel Beckett’s Waiting for Godot—a framework Nwandu uses to convey the men’s sense of futility, the feeling of endless waiting for change, for opportunity, for justice.
Go and see this production. “Pass Over” will give you the opportunity to think and to grieve, but more importantly to pose the question, what exactly are we waiting for?
Running Time: Approximately 1 hour and 10 minutes with no intermission. The play includes adult content and language.
“Pass Over” runs through April 12 at Studio Theatre 1501 14th Street NW, Washington, D.C. 20005. For more information or to purchase tickets, click here.