Review: PASSING at Capital Fringe

By: Jul. 16, 2019

Review: PASSING at Capital Fringe Some events in history are too large in scope for us to properly grasp and process them. It is in small, personal stories that we are able to gain a greater understanding of just what has occurred and how it may echo through time. Time and time again, we return to the individual narratives, the threads that make up the unfathomable, to anchor us. Originally conceived by playwright John Sowalsky almost ten years ago, Passing is just one of those intimate threads and it echoes with renewed urgency in our modern world.

At its core, Passing is the story of two sisters, in the aftermath of their mother's death. As they sift through the detritus of her life, one of them discovers a secret that has the power to tear the family apart. Sowalsky spends more time on telling the story of that secret than creating any tension over whether or not the secret will come out.

The sisters, played by Margaret Anne Murphy (Gretchen/Hannah) and Cristen Stephansky (Emma/Ruth), have a family dynamic that will be familiar to anyone who has siblings. Who is the favorite, the most successful, the most helpful? As happens in many families, these petty competitions fade into the background as circumstances, and tragedy, dictates.

The emotive performances of Murphy and Stephansky, along with Sowalsky's music and use of auditory cues during scene shifts, truly immerses the audience in this tale. When the end comes, it is almost inevitable, but no less heartbreaking. It is an indictment that reinforces that the more things change, the more they stay the same. And it is a warning that those who do not learn from the past are doomed to repeat it.

Gretchen / Hannah Margaret Anne Murphy

Emma / Ruth Cristen Stephansky

Director Harley Venton / Co-Director and Stage Manager Stephanie Zambrano / Artwork Hannah Halpern / Production Assistant Ann Venton / Playwright, Producer, and Original Music John Sowalsky

Passing has three remaining performances: Tuesday, 7/16, at 8:30 pm; Saturday, 7/20, at 2:30 pm; and Wednesday, 7/24, at 8:30 pm. More information and tickets are available at