What is in a name? What does one’s name symbolize? What does one’s name mean in the context of society and our history? As Antoinette Chinonye Nwandu’s new play Pass Over so brilliantly and clearly points out, it’s a lot more than just how we address each other.
There are countless reasons you should go see Pass Over during its 9 week run at the August Wilson Theatre.
Firstly, the powerful and essential tale of Moses (Jon Michael Hill) and Kitch (Namir Smallwood) wanting to leaving their block, in search of their “promised land top 10” is one that all people can relate to in some capacity. This (sometimes humorous) listing of “dream-like” requests invites the audience to this game that Moses and Kitch play daily, to remind each other of what they want when they finally get off their block. As the story goes on, and with the introduction of two additional (and exceptionally unlikeable) characters – Mister, and Ossifer (both played by Gabriel Ebert) – these requests don’t seem grandiose at all, rather just requests of basic human needs and decency – highlighting inherent racism and bias in today’s society.
The physical acting in Pass Over is among some of the best I have seen in years. From the physical dynamic between Hill and Smallwood to the looniness of both of Ebert’s characters – the way these actors use their bodies evokes emotion from the audience. There were several times that I felt like I was on that (ghetto street block, river’s edge, plantation, desert city built by slaves, and new world) with them – which is also due to Wilson Chin’s realistic, yet astounding set design. Without getting too much into the plot, but as noted above and in the Playbill, Pass Over jumps through four different time periods and five different locations. The culmination of these factors combined with Nwandu’s intentional, poetic and pointed dialogue and Danya Taymor’s dynamic direction makes for nothing short of a compelling, intriguing, thought-provoking and most importantly, dialogue-starting work of art.
So in sum, the name Pass Over, doesn’t even begin to scratch the surface about what this play is about – you really need to see it to join (us) – the necessary conversation. My advice? Run, don’t walk to dive right in (these statements will make more sense with the conclusion of the play, promise). Pass Over is playing at the August Wilson Theatre through October 10, 2021. To learn more about this production, visit https://www.passoverbroadway.com/.