Passing Strange

I just have to be honest here.  I didn’t get this play, not because there was anything wrong with it–I can’t assess that–but because it is a generational thing with references I just didn’t understand.

As a twenty-something audience member said after the show:  “In twenty years no one will know what it was all about.”  I must agree.  That goes for my generation which is similarly behind the curve, not ahead of it.

That having been said, the show is tight and the fact that it was recommended to me by a savvy professional who sees everything and knows theatre, means that my not enjoying it should not be used as a platform to trash it.

The simple story is a black youth’s odyssey to Europe to discover who he really is.  I do get that staying in America is confining for a person of color and that a trip abroad for Stew was a good idea.  In the liberal ethos of Amsterdam he finds a hippy zeitgeist–dating myself appropriately in this context–whereas in Berlin he finds the more angular spirit which we tend to associate with German culture of whichever era. 

His search for meaning and love, at home and abroad, is something many young people go through.  While his loving mother attempts to keep him home to fit into middle-class black society, Stew is compelled to search.  Kudos, so was I.  I know of no one who has made such a youthful odyssey who is not the better for it.  Learning about the world and life without your accustomed safety net is a profound experience.  But the songs don’t work for me.  Stew has found a way to produce them and get his piece of fame and fortune.  Perhaps it is superior marketing.  Perhaps something else.  As I said, I didn’t get it.