Monday, June 19, 2017

Review of Pass Over at Steppenwolf Theatre Company

Once upon a time I went to a show and it was called Pass Over. It was by Antoinette Nwandu and it was directed by Danya Taymor. It was about two men named Kitch (Julian Parker) and Moses (Jon Michael Hill) and they seem to be living on a street corner and they want to escape the danger of where they live; they want to pass over. Mister and Ossifer (both played by Ryan Hallahan) were both trying to stop them. Kitch and Moses are best friends trying to survive and go to a place where they will always be accepted, won't have to be afraid, and have access to things that comfort them. It is about brotherhood, racism, and getting to the promised land. I thought that this was an amazing show. It was super moving, funny, and terrifying in a real way. I loved it.

I think that there are a lot of similarities between this show and Waiting for Godot, like how the the two main characters are opposites. Moses is more like Gogo and Kitch is more like Didi. (Gogo is the pessimist and Didi is the optimist.) They are also trying to get away from where they are. In Godot, Didi and Gogo are always wondering why they can't leave. And in Pass Over, they are also waiting to leave. They also think about killing themselves in both plays. In Godot they want to hang themselves with their belts from a tree, but they discover that one of them might be left behind because one of them could kill themselves and, if the belt broke, the other wouldn't be able to die. In Pass Over they discover the same fact, but instead it is about hitting each other over the head with a rock. I almost started crying because I didn't want them to die, but there was also humor in the scene because they kept realizing how their plan was flawed. The set (by Wilson Chin) was also kind of similar because they have one prominent tall feature, which in Godot is a tree and in Pass Over is a lamppost. It gives you the same feeling because even though there are a lot of trees in the country and a lot of lampposts in the city, we never really notice lampposts and we never really notice trees because they are such a normal part of our everyday life, but when they are isolated they stand out and it gives you a very lonely feeling. Another similarity that Godot and Pass Over have is that hats (costume design by Dede Ayite) are a big part the show. Ossifer's police hat shows the authority he has, and when they take the badge and the hat he becomes powerless. Mister only seems to take off his hat when he is pissed off, which is kind of the opposite of Ossifer. Kitch uses his hat to hide pie, and he really loves food and it is like one of the biggest parts of what he hopes his life will be like when he passes over.

The first scene where Kitch and Moses meet Mister, Mister is bringing food to his mother's house Little-Red-Riding-Hood style. He has lost his way and he decides he should share some food with Kitch and Moses so it doesn't go to waste. But the thing is, he is more like the wolf when you actually get to know him. He has a much darker side when you get to know him. There was one moment where Moses and Kitch ask what to call him, and he says they should call him Master. And everyone in the audience and in the play is like, "Hold the phone." You find out that is just his name, but it still scares you because he is the white guy with a fancy white suit who could remind people of a plantation master. You are scared for Kitch and Moses because you are not sure what Mister means by that or what authority he has. This character seems less dangerous than Ossifer at first because he seems to want to be friendly and give them some food. He seems to be a friendly guy whistling "Oh, What a Beautiful Mornin'" and giving out food, but he turns out to be representing racism, white privilege, and the danger of people who have always gotten what they want and think everything belongs to them. This scene shows Kitch and Moses hungry but afraid of what might happen if they continue to eat. I thought it was very sad and terrifying. I think the playwright was trying to make the audience feel the same way that Kitch and Moses were feeling: scared, uncomfortable, and hungry. I think they did a really good job of making us feel those emotions.

Even though this play talks about some very serious and terrifying things, that doesn't mean it doesn't have funny moments. The relationship between Kitch and Moses was very sweet and funny in a lot of scenes. The humor didn't seem fake or planned. It seemed very genuine, like when you are hanging out with your friends and you are just goofing around. I really enjoyed watching their joking interactions play out; it was a lot of fun to witness. There was a recurring moment where Kitch would order room service from a fancy hotel in his mind. And he would always order caviar and tell them not to forget the "caviahhhr". He ordered it in a fancy British voice. I don't think even if he had come into a lot of money, he would have immediately sprouted a British accent! Then Moses has to break it to Kitch that caviar is fish eggs, and Kitch is very grossed out by that. It was very funny because he kind of recoiled from his fantasy and then they talked about how they could write a whole book about what Kitch doesn't know, which shows you how much they are like brothers because they are not afraid to tell each other the blatant truth in a humorous way. There was also another recurring joke about weed. Kitch asks Moses if he wants some weed. And Moses says, "No, If we are going to get off the streets we have to be respectable." And then there is like a long pause and then Moses says he does want some. But then Kitch says he doesn't have any. And Moses gets really mad and later tries to get back at him, which I found very funny. Sometimes when there is humor, there is a sad element to it. Like when they are trying not to say the N-word because they think that will make it so they won't get shot. But then it is very hard for them not to do that because they are so used to saying it. And when they are trying to tell the other person not to say that word, they use it to address them, which was hilarious, but it was sad they were trying to speak in a way they didn't usually speak just because they were afraid.

People who would like this show are people who like genuine humor, terrifying truths, and caviahhhr. I think people should definitely definitely go see this show. It is so moving, hilarious, and important. I loved it!

Photos: Michael Brosilow

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