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Review Roundup: Antoinette Nwandu's PASS OVER at LCT3

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Pass Over

LCT3/Lincoln Center Theater just opened Pass Over by Antoinette Nwandu, directed by Danya Taymor. The cast includes, Gabriel Ebert, Jon Michael Hill, and Namir Smallwood.

In Pass Over, Moses (to be played by Jon Michael Hill) and Kitch (Namir Smallwood) stand around on the corner - talking smack, passing the time, and hoping that today a miracle will come. A provocative mashup of Waiting for Godot and the Exodus saga, Pass Over exposes the unquestionable human spirit of young black men who dream about a promised land they've yet to find.

Let's see what the critics had to say...

Jesse Green, New York Times: Despite its grim relevance, "Pass Over" creates a vivid world of injustice while riffing on earlier ones. Moses and Kitch specifically recall not only Beckett's vaudevillians, but also enslaved African-Americans working a plantation and even biblical Israelites escaping from Egypt. At any moment, elements of these antecedents may erupt through the skin of the modern tale, as if to say that the current crisis for young black men is a tragedy too big for one era to encompass. This is daring dramaturgy, requiring the utmost in tonal control to keep it from tipping into righteous bathos. Danya Taymor's thrillingly tense LCT3 production mostly succeeds.

Frank Scheck, The Hollywood Reporter: Pass Over is more effective thematically than as drama. The dialogue at times feels aimless and repetitive, especially in the lengthy scenes featuring just Moses and Kitch. Its reliance on the constant use of the "N-word," to quote Master, starts out as provocative before becoming forced. The narrative lurches confusingly, and some of the symbolism and its meanings prove elusive. But there's no denying that the work packs a powerful punch, one that's fully realized in this production, superbly staged by Danya Taymor. The lighting and sound design (by Marcus Doshi and Justin Ellington, respectively) add greatly to the ominous effect.

Robert Hofler, The Wrap: Within the first few minutes of Antoinette Nwandu's play "Pass Over," which opened Monday at LCT's Off Broadway Claire Tow Theater, the two young black men standing on an urban street corner seemingly repeat themselves ad nauseam as they detonate more and more F-bombs and N-bombs while lighting fewer and fewer explosions with their limited vocabulary. Yet, even before "Pass Over" takes a wild turn with the entrance of a nattily dressed alien from another world, those two black men, Moses (Jon Michael Hill) and Kitch (Namir Smallwood), begin to emerge as a well-honed comedy act, one from the golden age of vaudeville, one that also conjures up Vladimir and Estragon's endless wait for Godot. And unlike Samuel Beckett's characters, these men are fully aware that the little corner of the universe they inhabit is where they'll die.

Raven Snook, TimeOut NY: Although much of its repartee is quite funny, Pass Over is a tough show. It's intended to challenge and cause discomfort, and a lot is left to interpretation. The copious use of the N-word is sure to rankle some audiences, but Moses and Kitch aren't here to entertain you. They have a life-or-death message to pass on.

Photo Credit: Jeremy Daniel

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