There is a rare event in theater called catharsis.
Not to be confused with the literary term, it is when a play reaches an audience so deeply that collectively they sit in silence until curtain call frees them. The recent opening of Left Edge Theatre’s production of Antionette Nwandu’s Pass Over marks only the third time this reviewer has witnessed it. The show runs at The California in Santa Rosa through May 13.
Based on Waiting for Godot, this modern surrealist masterpiece takes place on a street corner where Moses (Samuel Ademola) and Kitch (Mark Anthony) are trying to find a way to “get up off this block.” A strange man enters (Skylar Evans), who, though seemingly benign, has the unsettling presence of a pristine porcelain doll sitting on a trash can. Complicating matters further is the sinister Ossifer (Mike Pavone). To say more about the plot would be a disservice. Suffice it to say that things go awry.
At first, the language may seem unnecessarily coarse. It is, however, not gratuitous. As with an August Wilson play, Nwandu’s impressive writing has given us language as a character in its own right.
Complementing the excellent writing is the casting by director Serena Elize Flores. Ademola and Anthony, in addition to having immaculate comedic timing, can also seamlessly pivot on their characters’ emotions. Both men’s performances are a reminder that acting is an art form. Evans’ mysterious Mister may be the best work he has done on stage to date, and Pavone’s Ossifer casts a solid shadow of fear on the world.
This isn’t a perfect show. The squeakiness of the stage during important scenes is annoying, and the choice to make the sound effects so quiet is baffling. However, the acting, directing and script combine to create a night of theater that makes those imperfections seem superficial.
Some audience members last night found their emotional responses confusing or troubling. Happily, by basing the work on the Beckett masterpiece, Nwandu has given us a template with which to examine those feelings. In the words of Beckett, “To all mankind they were addressed, those cries for help still ringing in our ears! But at this place, at this moment of time, all mankind is us, whether we like it or not.”
Left Edge has thrown down the gauntlet for meaningful social activism in local theater. One hopes that the community picks it up and runs with it.
Left Edge Theatre’s ‘Pass Over’ runs through May 13 at The California Theatre, 528 7th St., Santa Rosa. Thu-Sat, 7:30pm; Sun., 2pm. $22–$36. 707.664.PLAY. leftedgetheatre.com.