Sorry in advance that I couldn’t go see a play because I haven’t been feeling well and still feel bad but without further a due. The play that I chose was Recorded and performed at Chicago’s Steppenwolf Theatre, we watch the actors John Michael Hill and Julian Parker capture the audience’s hearts with their performance in Pass Over, written by Antoinette Nwandu. Nwandu puts us in the heart of Southside Chicago on the iconic corner 64th and MLK St, two young men by the names of Moses, John Hill, and Kitch, Julian Parker, are fighting the consistent conflict throughout the show of getting out of the hood or “Pass Over”. We watch the two go through the everyday struggles of the average black man in the southside of Chicago.
John Hill and Julian Parker did a phenomenal job at portraying southside Chicago black male. The streets Nwandu set the show in is one of the most dangerous parts of a city in the entire country, Hill and Parker’s performance made were so well done that it seemed they could have been from there. From their annunciation of words, to their walks, or even the way they reacted to the gun shots that were played in the background was an outstanding job. To compare the two to who had the better performance is practically impossible both actors had the audience engaged and on the edge of their seats the entire show, and their chemistry on stage made it seem as if they had grown up with each other. Ryan Hallahan played the role of Mister, a white man lost trying to find his was to his mother’s house, and he absolutely killed his role. He never seemed to slide out of character and did a great job and saying his powerful lines with subtlety, he made you truly believe his hole charade of being a nice white man taking a stroll.
After seeing this show I was in complete shock and felt as if I had just got my heart taken away from me. Nwandu’s writing and uses of symbolism were beyond great, the way she structures the show from beginning to end made me feel like I was with the actors on the street. She touched on all the touchy topics we as Americans don’t like to talk about, my personal favorite was her use of the N word. There was a part where the two characters meet the antagonist ‘Mister’, he approaches them offering them to have a picnic with him, which was a great use of symbolism because picnics originated during slavery and they would only be held at the slave auctions which just adds that much more when Mister says his name is ‘Master’, they talk about the use of the N word and how he as a white man can’t say it, Moses says that Mister doesn’t own that word and he then gets agitated and says the line “but I own everything”. That line was so subtle but held so much power and pierced through every audience member chest. The two characters greet each other with “Bang Bang” symbolizing that death is near and I felt like that was a great line for the two to have each time they see each other. Typically shows have a “Hollywood” ending, but just when things start to look good for the two it falls apart when Mister shoots Moses in his stomach and has a classic closing monologue that makes you almost want to get up and stop the chaos that just occurred. I loved how she wrote every character almost as the stereotypical man in the white and black community, Mister the closeted racist, Moses the struggling but very motivated poor black man, Kitch the typical lifelong friend, and Ossifer the racist cop. The thing that I felt was even better was her choices for names especially Moses, throughout the show she references Moses the prophet who freed the slaves from Egypt. Moses even says in the climax of the show when he and Ossifer are face to face “a plague shall strike down upon you” referencing the plague Moses released against the Egyptians in the bible.
The set design was good for a curb on the corner of the street. I feel like the set designer could have added a little more background it felt too empty and when actors would enter or leave it looked like they were walking away into thin air. Beneath the main platform where the show took place was a huge sand pit, and I absolutely loved that addition. When the actors would drop or fall into the pit would be amazing. The costume design for the characters was a great job, I loved how Mister was dressed in a 1930’s outfit it fit him perfectly. Moses and Kritch’s outfits weren’t eye catching but they wouldn’t be considering they’re poor. There were moments in the show where the two would hear gunshots in the background and both drop to the floor while a blue strobe light would flicker, it sent shivers down your spine and made you feel as if you were in their position.
Overall, the show was a great piece of art Nwandu captured the black man’s life perfectly. The acting was jaw dropping and I would recommend everyone to watch this performance as soon as possible. Especially in times like these I think it’s important that we watch pieces of art that hold a mirror to our faces and addresses the current issues in our society.