First Draft: Pass Over

Please comment your reviews of Pass Over here.

4 Comments on “First Draft: Pass Over

  1. Marisa Lenardson
    Moses stands in a golden ray of light, shining as if it comes from heaven above. He speaks passionately about crossing a great wide river that stands between himself and freedom from the life he lives in fear. That moment, preceded by a day in the life between Moses and his friend Kitch, leaves a viewer wanting nothing more than for them to succeed. Pass Over produced by Kingsborough Community College, is a production that reflects how police brutality afflicts black men in society by focusing on a street corner inhabited by Kitch and Moses. Their day is spent searching for a purpose, as they get into conversations and fake fights that provide comedic relief along the way. There are heartfelt performances combined with coordinated movements, imaginative sound and lighting design, and a set that reflects the world these characters live in. These creative elements enhance the dark themes of the show and move an audience towards sympathy and understanding.

    Moses and Kitch steal the show with their close-knit friendship. Their chemistry goes beyond the realm of words and impacts the effortlessness of their body language. Moses is small and stature, with a personality that seems too big to be contained within him. Kitch stands staller and heftier but carries a calm-natured personality. Their contrast creates humor as Moses leads the duo with his ambitious ideas and hyper energy. Meanwhile, Kitch follows around the stage challenging, complementing, and coordinating with Moses’s movements. At one point, the two engage in a game of “Uncle,” where Moses grips Kitch and attempts to twist his arm to bring him down. Kitch responds sarcastically, saying every other relative except for “uncle.” The actors play off of one another to increase the payoff of a scene’s potential.

    Another hilarious moment brought forth by their physicality is when “Mister” is introduced and Moses hops onto Kitch’s back yelling “Keep yo hands out yo pocket!” Mister, Moses, and Kitch accentuate their line delivery with mannerisms that suit their character. For Mister, that entails keeping poised and flamboyant posture that complements his fast, articulate speech. When these characters break their usual dynamic, it is jarring. Such as when Mister yells “EVERYTHING’S MINE!” after being told he doesn’t own the “n” word. Or when Moses loses his hope for a better life and comes close to tears, shrieking “Why!” on the floor.

    As police drive by this street corner, fear can be felt through the air as Moses and Kitch drop to the ground. A piercing ringing plays followed by a pounding heartbeat and all warm light leaves the stage. The moments are tense and intentionally disruptive to the momentum of the story. Lighting throughout Pass Over manipulates the warmth and cold atmosphere of a scene for practical and emotional purposes. After an intense confrontation with Ossifer, the sun rises on the street corner and warm light floods the stage. As Kitch carries Moses’s dead body, the same golden light shines upon him that lit Moses during his speech about the great river. Lighting serves as a visual metaphor for reaching the point of “passing over.” It is a well-thought out design and execution, except for one technical difficult of a light flashing occasionally in the middle of scenes.

    Technical aspects reveal inner thoughts and feelings of these characters. While Moses and Kitch sleep, we hear a woman’s voice saying “take these boys off these streets” with the crackling of a fire in the background. At the same time, lights flicker to emulate fire. It isn’t entirely clear if this voice belongs to Moses’s mother or someone else, but it provides insight into the nightmarish dreams these boys have before they awake.

    Sound design is an essential aspect of the climactic scene between Ossifer and Moses, after Ossifer strikes Kitch on the head. Blood on both of his hands, Moses suddenly turns around on Ossifer and a jolting thump plays as Ossifer appears to be magically weakened by Moses. He continues to stand tall over him, inching his hand forward and watching Ossifer move with it. Without this sound effect, the scene would feel almost laughable considering that the rest of the show contains no fantasy elements. Though there were hints about Moses being “different” in some way, the audible sound of some kind of “force” being used provides clarity about what happens within this scene.

    The set for Pass Over seems like a practical street corner with a lamppost stretching to the ceiling and some milk crates to use as chairs. However, at the back of the stage a tree grows from the concrete. Except it is devoid of any color and appears to be metallic. The tree appears to reflect the ambition of Moses and Kitch to grow beyond their concrete restrictions, and yet they remain rooted to this prison where they lack any chance to grow.

    Pass Over leaves many in tears because of the dark yet candid themes it displays. Presenting the horrors of police brutality and suicidal thoughts would strike most with an emotional toll but strikes severer during this production. Kingsborough Community College layered their version of Pass Over with thoughtful metaphors and impassioned delivery that leaves a person feeling heartbroken and wanting justice for a better world.

  2. Pass Over makes you feel uncomfortable. It tells you to ask questions about yourself that you don’t want to know the answers to. When a white cop puts his foot on a young black man’s head as directs racial and sexual slurs towards him, the audience realizes for the first time exactly what show they’re watching. Before that, though, Pass Over is a story about dreaming of a better future. The appropriately named protagonist, Moses (Christopher Ross), and his closest friend Kitch (Jordan McDuffie) lament about the punitive world they live in and gaze hopefully at the city skyline, looking for a better future. This is all conveyed to the audience through an engaging prose, capturing a legitimate voice for characters reacting to their situation.

    In fact, the script is only enhanced by the reality that the cast and crew created around it. Before even entering the theatre, the tone of the show is set through music. The set is simple, yet says exactly what it needs to about the vague location Moses and Kitch reside in. The pre-show announcements were delivered by Jeffrey Laraichi’s “Ossifer.” The production does not miss any opportunities to immerse the audience in its well-developed atmosphere.

    Christopher Ross’ Moses succeeds in making the audience care. He breeds empathy by daring to dream despite his situation. While his movements could be more decisive, the energy Ross brings to Moses as a character brings the performance to life. Ross conveys Moses reaching an infectious high moments before a sense of crushing defeat, which shifts into a well deserved show of power that could not have been predicted. The tragedy that Moses endures is the audience’s tragedy, which is a credit to Ross’ choices as an actor.

    Jordan McDuffie could have written that he has been on stage for his entire life, and no one would have questioned it. Instead, his bio informs the reader that this is his first time acting. McDuffie’s comfort on stage and his understanding of Kitch is a testament to himself and his mentors. His chemistry with Ross’ Moses relies heavily on his ability to be both a protector and a follower. Despite his size, McDuffie manages to be small in his demeanor when he finds it appropriate – and it isn’t offputting. Kitch just works, and it’s largely because of McDuffie’s dedication to the role.

    Jeffrey Laraichi tackles two extremely challenging roles that require a full commitment to be believable. He is the one who carries us through the theme of time that Pass Over conveys. He is the one that calls us to action – that if we don’t choose to call out oppression where we see it it will never cease. He is the one who exemplifies what a microaggression looks like and forces any predominantly white audience to face the truth of what we let happen around us.

    Pass Over is a production that everyone needs to see. Instead of telling the audience what to feel, it tells them to ask important questions. This is the type of social theatre we need today.

  3. Pass Over was a beautiful piece of political theater portrayed by three incredibly talented students who never once failed to lose our attention. From the moment the audience stepped foot in the blackbox, we were welcomed by a Police Officer patrolling the area, walking throughout the isles of seats, up and down the steps with audience members, and interacting with a lucky few who happened to be in his way. The two main actors were set on the stage before doors opened to the theater, giving us the opportunity to observe them during the pre-show rap.

    Once the show itself began, the actors greeted the audience with incredible energy that never ceased throughout the etire 85 minutes of the piece. They were witty, quick, and unrelenting in their interactions. The partner work between Ross & McDuffie was impeccable, their relationship on stage would lead one to believe they’ve known each other their whole lives. It’s important to note that this was McDuffie’s first ever acting experience, and his performance was nearly flawless. His character “Kitch” was portrayed as this big, strong force of nature, but we learn early on that he’s the softer of the two characters. He was beautifully consistent in his choices and the world of the piece benefited so much from it.

    Throughout the piece we learn about these characters lives, their fears, their hopes and dreams. They are constantly humanizing and validating each other, making their characters so much more than two names in a script. Christopher Ross (Moses) was such an addictive force of energy throughout his entire performance. Every emotion, every physicality, even the dialogue felt like it was written specifically for him. Both Ross and McDuffie had incredible performances and should continue to be celebrated for their work.

    This piece was driven by personal narratives that were met with conflict. The audience knew coming into this piece that they would be met with the topic of police brutality, a very relevant and necessary conversation starter, however this production specifically made us rethink the basis of the problem. The end of the piece was shocking and unexpected, but it was exactly what we needed to get the conversation started within ourselves. It’s not a secret that the majority of the 12:00 audience was almost entirely white, and by the end of this production we were all so moved, so shocked, and so ready to fight for those protagonists. It changed the way the audience viewed the real issue at hand, which is, we never know where hatred stems from. We never know who we can truly trust.

    We were given these two completely different characters, portrayed very well by Jefferey Laraichi, who were meant to put the audience on edge simply due to their existence. Characters who we knew we needed to fear. And while the climax of the piece was incredibly jarring and unnerving, it was what left us with the notion that we never truly know someone.

    Overall, this piece was so incredibly moving. The pacing of these characters, their energy, and their genuine understanding of how much their production mattered made it that much more exciting to watch. This is a piece I would recommend to absolutely anyone, but I couldn’t imagine it without these actors specifically. It was just, that, good.

  4. Kingsborough Theatre Arts production of “Pass Over” by Antoinette Nwandu fires many shots and misses a lot of them. Police brutality is a delicate subject that has been at the center of the American consciousness since its establishment. The United States of America exists because American colonists were fed up with the oppression by the british monarchy. This is a reality that African-Americans and other people of color deal with daily in contemporary America. Pass Over shines a light on the fear and anxiety of being a black man in a country where the people sworn to protect you are more likely to kill you. The allegorical script places biblical themes in a modern setting and it raises many questions; but it’s bogged down by a production that fails to convey all of the naunces that could’ve been explored.

    The two protagonists of the play are Moses (played by Christopher Ross) and Kitch (played by Jordan McDuffie) and they serve as audience surrogates to show what it’s like to be a person of color in the states. When it comes to portraying the fear and paranoia of black men, Ross and McDuffie both deliver true to life, and often haunting depictions of it. There’s an unsettling tone that lingers all throughout the play and it’s during these moments McDuffie and Ross’ acting shines. However, there are several times during their performances that it seems they are speaking and shouting their lines rather than fully acting them out. This is especially apparent with McDuffie often keeping the same, almost blank facial expression when acting. This can work for scenes where his character Kitch is being emotionally reserved, but fails him in more emotionally demanding scenes. Ross has the opposite problem of overacting his lines as the charismatic Moses. He indicates rather than letting his lines flow out more naturally. This is seen by his exaggerated shouts that are immersion breaking for the audience. Ross’ difficulties show when he’s required to be dramatic; his skill is there, but needed better direction to coax it out.
    What Ross does excel at are the comedic portions of the script. He possesses the timing that is required for the jokes to work. Ross carries the first half of the play as Moses. He succeeds at conveying Moses’ doubts and desire of living a better life outside of poverty. That is essentially the heart of the play, for Kitch and Moses to “pass over” their impoverishment..

    The script combines elements of the bible with a contemporary, African American twist. The primary motivation of Moses and Kitch is to escape their poverty. Moses of Pass Over mirrors his name twin Moses from the bible and there’s direct comparisons between them in the play. Kitch relies on Moses to lead him out of the projects; the same way Moses’ biblical counterpart lead the Israelites out of Egypt. This is compelling material that falls flat more than once in the Kingsborough’s production of Pass Over. However, the script isn’t without its flaws. Kitch and Moses’ dialogue is littered with expletives that seem to only be there for shock value. Especially the use of the phrase “n**** damn.” Most sentences in Pass Over either begin or end with it; it is then addressed later on within the play for a joke. Being a New Yorker, especially as a person of color from the South Bronx, the n-word is not a new thing to my ears. Although, it’s usage in the play begs the question, is the amount of times it’s used intended for shock value or for reclamation? In this production of Pass Over it appears to border on being exploitative at times.

    McDuffie and Ross have great onstage chemistry together as Kitch and Moses. The two actors know how to bounce off each other (sometimes literally) and demonstrates the authenticity of their characters’ friendship. When the other two characters Mister and Ossifer are introduced (both played by Jeffrey Laraichi) the narrative delves deeper into the relationships, or barriers that exist between Americans of Color and White Americans. Mister and Ossifer are caricatures of hipsters and police officers. Mister is a fish out of water, “kind” yuppie that somehow finds his way into the hood. Ossifer is the personification of the ghoulish role that police take in African-American and other people of color’s lives. Whenever Ossifer is onstage there’s a sense of dread that’s felt by the characters and the audience. Laraichi did well as these two characters, although he did better as the police officer. As Mister he made several bizarre facial expressions that got in the way of taking in the entirety of his performance.

    As a whole, Kingsborough Theatre Arts’ production of Pass Over by Antoinette Nwandu is a mixed bag that bounces between displaying relevant social commentary and awkward, stilted acting that blocks the material from fulling blooming.

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