Review by Jen Bush
All human beings seek acceptance and navigate the world for niches to fit into. For some groups, it’s more of a challenge. In this world we have come a long way, but we still do not fully accept and embrace differences and diversity as readily as we should. Our DNA dictates a great deal about how we look and act but at the core, we are all human beings. We came into this world the same way and we will cease to exist the same way. People are like paintings in a museum. The basic elements are a canvas, paint and a frame. What makes us different are all the wonderful combinations of shapes, colors and textures placed within that frame. We don’t all like the same kinds of art but we should appreciate the artistic value of a work and the passion that goes into creating it.
Pass/Fail is a comedy-drama about a trans masculine individual named Johnny played by Syd Ronis who struggles to fit into the college he goes to. Though Johnny refers to himself as male and presents himself to the world as a male, he is attending an all-women’s college. This presents multiple problems and issues about how others view and relate to him. Some characters identify him and relate to him as a female. Some are confused. The dialogue infers that when he began attending this all women’s college, he presented as and identified as a female named Rachel. One of his professors still insists on calling him Rachel. As the play progresses, we see Johnny in classes, interacting with students, hanging out with is best friend, on a date and vlogging as his alter ego, Battlebro.
Johnny takes music classes and musical theater classes. The character of Johnny was utterly likeable. You sympathized, empathized and rooted for him. His teacher for 2 classes is highly antagonistic toward him for unknown reasons. Perhaps she’s trans phobic or simply a mercurial individual. This shallow, cruel and dismissive drama teacher who is completely disconnected from her students was sadistically well executed by Rebecca Cianciotto. In the scene where Johnny was trying to explain his gender identity to the teacher and asks to be respected by being addressed using appropriate pronouns, Syd Ronis’s comedic timing and facial expressions were magnificent. When Johnny’s teacher was spewing incredulous dialogue, Ronis’s expressions of shock and exasperation, which we were feeling right along with him, were spot on.
Some of the best scenes took place between Johnny and his best friend Noah. Noah was played by Marc David Wright. In the handbill, it says that Wright is a rising senior acting major. In my estimation, he will rise high and quickly. His portrayal of Noah was assertive and direct while also being tender and caring.
The award for the star of the date from hell goes to Jonathan Hernandez as Will. Creating a character dripping with narcissism and self-love and the recipient of more of Syd Ronis’s incredulous facial expressions, kudos to Hernandez.
This play was completely relatable to one and all. You don’t have to be a trans person to have experienced an awkward and uncomfortable date or to have experienced an entanglement with an awful teacher.
Though this was not a musical, there were two moments during the theater classes where the most glorious vocalizations emanated from the golden throat of Syd Ronis. One was an operatic piece and one was a musical theater piece.
In terms of flow, this play was a well-oiled machine. Just like a perfect recipe, there was just enough of every ingredient in each scene. The transition from scene to scene was seamless.
This was a thoroughly enjoyable and well written show. Its’ subject matter is dealing very sensitively with issues that are hot button topics currently. Hopefully the people who see it will be impacted enough to be more accepting of others who are not quite the same as them.