The most stimulating, challenging and heartbreaking play I’ve seen this year is playing at Chester Theatre Company through this weekend. Antoinette Nwandu’s Pass Over takes place on a violent street corner in today’s America, where two young Black men dream of “gettin’ up off of this block” and making it to “the Promised Land.” The play pulses with biblical and historical yearnings for deliverance – from the Israelites’ captivity in Egypt and Africans’ slavery in the American South.

It’s an antic riff on Waiting for Godot, but with so much more at stake than with Beckett’s pair of metaphorical tramps. In 80 devastating minutes, Pass Over delivers its own harsh metaphor of race relations and divides in our country. I previewed Chester’s production in my previous column, and saw it last weekend. There are times when it’s hard to watch and times when I laughed out loud.

Christina Franklin’s inspired production features three definitive performances. Kayodè Soyemi and Austin Sasser are playful and poignant, ironic and incendiary as Moses and Kitch, and James Barry is both funny and creepy as two archetypal white men.

In a season when every major theater in the region has mounted shows reflecting on today’s racial tensions and evils, I found Pass Over the most compelling and affecting. If you see only one play this summer, see this one.

 Wednesday-Sunday August 3-7, tickets and info here

Photos by Andrew Greto