“Pass Over,” a searing play about two Black men trapped by existential dread in a world where too many of their peers have been killed by police, is coming to Broadway.
A team of producers who include the playwright, Antoinette Chinonye Nwandu, said Tuesday that they would mount a new version of the play at the August Wilson Theater on Broadway later this year. The production will be directed by Danya Taymor.
The play, an 85-minute riff on “Waiting for Godot,” began its life in 2017, directed by Taymor at Steppenwolf Theater Company in Chicago. That production was filmed for Amazon Prime Video by Spike Lee, and in 2018 the play ran at Lincoln Center Theater. It has since had several other productions, including at the Kiln Theater in London.
The play, in which two friends pass time on a city street corner, sharing fears and dreams, was prompted in part by the death of Trayvon Martin, and draws on the Book of Exodus. Nwandu reworked the play’s ending between the Steppenwolf and Lincoln Center productions, and said she now plans to do so again. In earlier versions, one of the two main characters died at the end; Nwandu said that in the Broadway version, they will both survive.
“I wrote the other versions of the play out of anger, and out of a desire to shock white people into caring about the fact that Black lives matter,” Nwandu said. “Now I’m ready to step back from that role of needing to indict white America. White America has been indicted, and continues to be indicted, by the actual death of Black people, so nobody needs to see that theatrically rendered anymore.”
She said the play “is still largely a lament,” but that she is now envisioning a tonal shift at the end, as she thinks about her own emotional well-being and that of her audience. “We all know we need some sort of communal healing,” she said. “We have to witness. We have to grieve. And we have to heal, so we can go out into the world and fight these battles.”
The Broadway production will have an eclectic producing team: Matt Ross, a longtime theater publicist who is becoming more active as a producer; Jujamcyn Theaters, the company that operates the August Wilson Theater; Lincoln Center Theater, the nonprofit that presented the play Off Broadway; Concord Theatricals, a publishing and licensing company with a growing footprint in the theater world; Renee Montgomery, a retired basketball player who is an owner of the Atlanta Dream W.N.B.A. team; the actor Blair Underwood; Madeleine Foster Bersin, who, along with Ross, was part of the producing team for “What the Constitution Means to Me”; and Nwandu.
The cast has not yet been announced.