Heavy-handed but with a lot on its mind, Pass Over, a world premiere play going on now until April 12 at Studio Theatre, packs plenty of punches into its compendiary 70-minute runtime. They don’t all land — not by a long shot — but it’s worthwhile to watch it swing.
Written by Antoinette Nwandu and directed by Psalmayene 24, Pass Over is a black, urban riff on Waiting for Godot — with lots of Exodus thrown in (hence the title). Moses (Christopher Lovell) and Kitch (Jalen Gilbert) are two young men trapped on a street corner: waiting, stymied, hungry, frustrated, and hunted by aggressive white men (Cary Donaldson) with guns. If Vladimir and Estragon were fate’s fools, Moses and Kitch are society’s victims.
That’s a great idea, and a hefty amount of “all slaves yearn to be free” thematic work plays in. The show has lots to say, which is always better than shows that don’t, and the three actors are all seriously impressive, walking the line between gritty realism and head-spinningly thick metaphor. Some of it, however, makes more sense that the rest.
On an austere but full set by Debra Booth and under solid lighting work designed by Keith Parham, Kitch and Moses (and yes, that name will “pay off” in a big way), confront the existential waiting trap — and hostile caucasians — as they seek a way, any way, to move forward, to pass over their horrible, violence-hewn circumstances.
This show would make for some great discussions. But I don’t know if it’ll see future productions.
At the risk of giving too much away, Pass Over feels divided over what kind of ending it wants to have: magic realism optimism … or grim “there is no escape” David Simon-style fade out. Either way, it’s more of a conclusion than Gogo and Didi get. Here, at least, you know what things mean.