Review: Pass Over A Play at Luna Stage

By on February 24, 2020

REVIEW:  The play:  PASS OVER, by Antoinette Nwandu,

directed by Devin E Haqq  playing at Luna stage Theatre Co.

LunaStage org.  866 811 4111

555 Valley Road,  Orange, New Jersey

February 6 – March 1, 2020

In 80 minutes, you will be whisked away from the comfort of your living room to a ghetto street corner from which homeless Moses and Kitch are trying desperately to escape. Their black patois is as lyrical as it is insistent, and` it’s likely you won’t be able to take your eyes or ears off them until the lights dim at the end of the one act play. Sitting in the round, you’ll soon join them as surely as if you’d been transported in a dream.

Their greatest wish is to pass over, to the promised land, the land of milk and honey. But throughout this one act play, they remain stuck on their frightening airless corner.

Their only intermittent visitor is a young white man named Master who comes with a picnic basket in hand.  Lost, on the way to his mother’s, he doesn’t quite know how to approach the streetwise studs who see him as a true foreigner bearing provisions . And on their corner.  Should they rob him? Should they befriend him?

It is much like watching dogs with stiff legs circling each other, one wonders. How will this end?

Their life on their lonely street corner is animated by games they play with each other.  Dreaming of everything from cake to pizza, the two attempt to assuage their actual hunger with games about food.

Once they open a pizza box that bears only leftover crusts.  They treat these morsels of food as tenderly as the German Chocolate cake about which they can only dream.

But the friendship and loyalty the two share is palpable. In the face of such an unfeeling world, they create for each other an island of grace.

A blue-clad white  policeman works the corner periodically causing the denizens of the corner to freeze in a posture of instant submission.

Playwright Antoinette Nwandu tells us that Pass Over is set “now/right now/but also 1855/but also 13th century BCE.” She says that the location is: “a ghetto street, but also a plantation, but also Egypt, a city built by slaves.”

That is another way of saying she takes a long historical look at racism in America. No wonder that director Spike Lee – never known for being subtle — has released a film adaptation of Pass Over. Nwandu’s long view is compacted into 80 minutes, that hammers its blunt message home via the white policeman’s truncheon that hits the black men upside the head. And a pistol that threatens death if they move.

Seeing this play, you can immediately understand why Bloomberg is probably unsuitable for public office because you will feel what it’s like to be struck. The black men fold up under the white policeman’s weapons. And you will understand in your gut what it’s like to be hit.

When I got out of the theater,  I had to retreat immediate safety of my own car, where I could sit and cry my eyes out, feeling the pain of the black men and the guilt of the white men.  And the end result, in the play and in life is a feeling of utter futility.

I offer undying thanks to playwright Antoinette Nwandu, and director Devin E. Haqq for giving to the world truth in 80 minutes. And thanks to Jonathan Cobb and Suzzanne Douglas Cobb for supporting this production.

Go see it.  You owe it to yourself. And to our world.



About Linda Eckhardt

Linda West Eckhardt, is an award winning journalist, food writer, and nutritionist. Her more than 20 cookbooks have garnered prizes including the James Beard prize for the best cookbook for a text she wrote with her daughter, Katherine West DeFoyd, entitled Entertaining 101, Doubleday. Their follow-up book, Stylish One Dish Dinners, Doubleday, was also nominated for a James Beard prize. Their next book, The High Protein Cookbook, Clarkson Potter, remains a best seller after 12 years. That book was designed to accompany low carb diet plans. Her ground-breaking book, Bread in Half The Time, Broadway Books, was named the Best Cookbook in America by the prestigious IACP, The Julia Child award. Her award winning radio work with Jennifer English, for a national show on the Food and Wine radio network, was nominated for a James Beard Prize for a show called, “I Know What You Ate Last Summer.”