BWW Review: PASS OVER at ACT Gives a Visceral Look at Racial Injustice
Dear Readers, back in 2011 I was fortunate enough to see a play entitled "The Brothers Size" at a local theater. It was an evening that shook me to my core theatrically. I mention this, not to compare it with Antoinette Nwandu's "Pass Over", currently being offered at ACT, but to explain that not from that day to this has a show destroyed me emotionally as "Pass Over" did last night. Now you may say it's because I'm a sap or due to some "white liberal guilt" and to that I say, "yeah, probably." But also, it's entirely due to the insanely brilliant play and performances bringing to light such prevalent injustice.
Nwandu's play could be described as a modern day mash up of "Waiting for Godot" and the Exodus tale, but don't think that it's a copy of those by any stretch of the imagination. In the play two young black men, Moses (Trevor Lovelle) and Kitch (Preston Butler III) hang out on a street corner by a lamppost and dream of the day they can get off that block and pass over to "The Promised Land", a place where they never need to worry and everything is plentiful. But as they joke, play, and dream, the harsh realities of their existence keep bursting through as they hear the sounds of police in the area, causing them to fall to the ground, spread eagle to avoid getting shot. As they wait for the keys to their salvation, their small block is intruded upon by random white men, listed in the program only as "Mister", and personified by an overly exaggerated, clean cut, example of white privilege, as well as the police, listed in the program as "Ossifer" (both roles played by Avery Clark), who routinely come upon them and verbally and physically abuse them for no reason other than their skin color.
Now, I will warn you that the play uses tons of profane language as well as quite healthy use of the "n word" and contains a strobe, a gunshot, and more than a few potential triggering moments. But if you can handle all that, and I pray you can, this is a show not to miss. Yes, of course, it needs to be seen as it's discussing such a relevant topic plaguing our nation, but also because that subject is delivered so expertly in 80 scant minutes. Director Tim Bond has crafted such an indelible relationship between the two main characters, creating a vicious, but never preachy, feeling of them vs. the world. And with Julia Hayes Welch's tight and visually affecting set, and Andrew D. Smith's powerful lighting along with Sharath Patel's haunting sound design, the world they're trapped in comes alive.
This trio of actors own their respective roles down to their smallest gesture. Lovelle brings in a troubled power to Moses, becoming the big brother to Kitch, and giving us a solid footing into the reality of this situation. And Butler is stunning with his slightly more innocent tone filling Kitch with tons of heart and humor, but never taking him out of the world he's in. Clark's dual role is astounding. As Mister he takes a completely benign character on the surface and imbues him with a terrifying malevolence, as opposed to the outward malevolence from Ossifer, making both of his characters amount to the personification of the injustice at hand.
This is simply a magnificent achievement that demands and deserves to be seen. And so, with my three-letter rating system, I give ACT's production of "Pass Over" an "I couldn't stop bursting into tears on the way home" WOW. Just see it. If only we could get some other certain people to see it and understand.
"Pass Over" performs at ACT through June 23rd. For tickets or information contact the ACT box office at 206-292-7676 or visit them online at www.acttheatre.org.