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Steppenwolf Presents The World Premiere Of

Pass Over

By Antoinette Nwandu

Directed By Danya Taymor

June 1 – July 9, 2017 In The Upstairs Theatre

Passover has always been known as the story of how the Jews exited from Egypt, gaining their liberation from slavery. The celebration of this wonderful yet tragic event is a reminder of the suffering they overcame by those who oppressed them. Martin Luther King, Jr. once said: “Freedom is never voluntarily given by the oppressor; it must be demanded by the oppressed.” But freedom has a price that few are willing to pay or provide.

Playwright Antoinette Nwandu’s depiction in “Pass Over” has a personal and political message; it is a very moving, emotional and thought-provoking play. The emotions you will feel will differ based on how you see yourself. It will cause you to rethink your humanity and cause you to wonder about the value of life when it comes to others. As you walk into the theater, you are unknowingly already witnessing a part of the play. Like other critics, we will not give away this pivotal plot that is already weaving its oppressed views. As you sit in your seat, you may wonder why these songs are being played, but after a while, you may just sit comfortably in your seat enjoying the subtle and smoothing melodies. The music will either remind you of happier times or times when life was only happy because you were alive. Then the lights slowly begin to dim and you are now a part of two lives seeking to find their way.        

Whether they are bums living on the streets or just two young men with no place to go, they both are seeking to find solace with who they are and what they want to become. One block can be a prison to some and these two are seeking to leave– but something is holding them from exploring their dreams. Nevertheless, Moses and Kitch are determined to “pass over” until the nightmares of their lives begin. If you missed it, and I’m sure you won’t if you saw the photo, Moses and Kitch are Black. As they joyfully talk about what they will do and where they will go once they pass over, gunshots are fired causing them to hit the ground and the fear of dying young rears its ugly head; however, they soon succumb to the real fear of living when a White cop comes to remind them that they will never be able to escape his oppression.

Moses and Kitch seem to be living the real-life movie of “Ground Hog Day” as each day they think about passing over, the reality that they may never make it from their block is very present.

This year’s most thought-provoking & provocative play

Directed by Danya Taymor, “Pass Over” is this year’s most thought-provoking and provocative play. The case of Jon Michael Hill (Moses), Julian Parker (Kitch), and Ryan Hallahan (Mister) are exceptionally remarkable and unsettling, which is a compliment to how well they pulled off their performance. We got a chance to speak with Jon Michael Hill and we can honestly say he is truly a great talent and one of the most humble actors we have met. Rick was excited to meet him as the actor from the hit CBS show “Elementary.” Jon Michael’s role of Moses was compelling and with the name Moses (Deliverer), he is Kitch’s saving grace for making it out of a land filled with gunshots, violence, death and oppression. Julian Parker was amazing in his role as a young man seemingly lost in wonderland. His portrayal of hope and hopelessness will have you spinning up and down with emotions. Ryan Hallahan’s roles of peace-maker, policeman and one character who will leave you with a lasting image was masterfully profound, startling and unforgettable. Together, all three men perfectly set the stage for a scene that can only be described as emotionally powerful.

I, Rick McCain, add this personal viewpoint. This play is about how Blacks are viewed and treated and will cause your emotions to spurI applaud Steppenwolf Theatre for having the gall to present such provocative plays that reach the soul of humanity. With this said, I’m always amazed by the reactions I receive as a Black man in the eyes of Caucasians who have seen the play. Without fail, someone who is non-black will see me and notice I was at the play and share his or her feelings of guilt and despair. While I am extremely happy that the play brings out the emotions of these viewers and how moved they are, which is the goal of the playwright, I can’t help but ask myself, do they share the same feelings with those within their own race? I digress!

How the play ends, well I will leave it up to you to go see it and tell us. For some, it can be a tragic reminder of how diverse we are while others may believe it shows how far we have fallen. Some will see it and be disturbed and angry while others will have a brush with reality and will display empathy, and some will go home totally indifferent. For us, it reminded us that united we stand, divided we fall is more than a quote; it was supposed to be a lifestyle we decide to choose if we all wanted to succeed. Funny how that word “all” never seemed to have passed over.

We highly recommend this play, but be ready to ask yourself the question: is it indeed a wonderful life for all?   

The cast includes:

Jon Michael Hill (Moses)

Julian Parker (Kitch)

Ryan Hallahan (Mister)     

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