Caviar and a bright yellow Ferrari: These are two of the 10 wishes friends Kitch and Moses have for the “promised land”—a metaphorical term for moving up in life used in the play Pass Over. Written by Antoinette Nwandu and directed by Monica White Ndounou, the play begins with comedy and banter, but ultimately shows how racism and police harassment can cost black men their lives and dreams.
Moses and Kitch are two black men living on a local street corner who long to escape their current lives. The two are planning how they will move up in life when they encounter the white man Mister (Lewis D. Wheeler). He says he is lost and offers the two men his leftover food. Instead of working towards moving off their block, they spend the day with Mister. Moses and Kitch later encounter a police officer, Ossifer, who harasses them and uses racial slurs. In a dream-like scenario, they are seen overpowering the officer and asserting themselves, while calling upon the seven plagues from the Bible. Back in reality, Moses is ultimately shot and killed by a white man and Kitch mourns the loss of his friend.
The setting of the play transcends time periods. The lives of Kitch (Hubens “Bobby” Cius) and Moses (Kadahj Bennett) reflect the lives of black men in America today and other oppressed people throughout history. They face police brutality, are degraded by white men in power, and long for freedom. The simplistic stage design, which consists of only a singular lamppost, prevents the story from being bound by a particular time period. The oppression that Kitch and Moses experience is the thread throughout the play that holds the narratives of these seemingly distinct time periods together.
The actors interact with the audience throughout the show, which adds humor while keeping the audience on its toes. The stage itself also acts as a physical representation of the boundaries placed on Kitch and Moses by white people. While Kitch and Moses are unable to leave the stage, the white characters of Mister and Ossifer leave the stage as they please.
The language used between the two may seem shocking and vulgar. The frequent use of the n-word between Kitch and Moses shows their brotherhood. They realize that using this word may affect how they are perceived by the white police. Mister is confused why he is not allowed to use the n-word in the same way that the two black men are. This question is answered later in the play, when the n-word is used to degrade Moses. The language used in the play explores how the n-word is used by different races today.
The play also uses biblical references to draw parallels between oppression throughout history and the oppression that Kitch and Moses face. Kitch and Moses desire to go to the “promised land,” just as Moses in the Bible leads the Jewish people to the promised land. The play draws attention to the similarities in the oppression faced by Jewish people in Egypt and black people in America today.
The meaning of “the promised land” also changes throughout the play. When his situation feels hopeless, Moses instead considers passing over to the promised land of the next life.
The music and sounds used throughout the play complement the poetic dialogue. Music provokes the audience to feel the pain and fear in Moses’ nightmares. The silence that emanates throughout the theater is also powerful, especially after Moses death.
Pass Over shows the lightheartedness of Kitch and Moses’s brotherhood and the reality of living as black men in America.
Photo Courtesy of Nile Scott Studios