A prominent Chicago theater critic is under fire for publishing a review of Steppenwolf's production of Pass Over that many are calling racist. In fact, a petition signed by more than 3,000 people so far calls for Hedy Weiss of the Sun-Times to stop being invited to shows—meaning she would no longer receive free tickets, but could purchase her own ticket if she wanted to attend a performance in order to review it. Weiss criticized Pass Over, a "riff on Waiting for Godot" by Antoinette Nwandu that includes a scene in which a bigoted cop confronts the two black main characters, for featuring what she called a "simplistic, wholly generic characterization of a racist white cop (clearly meant to indict all white cops)" that "is wrong-headed and self-defeating." Steppenwolf's artistic director responded to the controversy in a Facebook post on behalf of the company Wednesday, Chicagoist reports.
The post notes that "some of the critical responses from this work have been shocking" and have revealed a strong racial bias, and calls Weiss' review "particularly egregious." The petition accuses Weiss of publishing other reviews with racist, homophobic, or body-shaming views, and posts here and here catalog some past controversies; Weiss infamously once wrote that Angels in America playwright Tony Kushner exhibited "the classic style of a self-loathing Jew." A PerformInk blog takes not just Weiss but other critics who wrote about Pass Over to task, noting that one critic used the n-word multiple times in her review while another seemed to be wondering why the play didn't focus more on black-on-black crime. Weiss has yet to respond to the petition, but Broadway World notes that the Chicago Tribune theater critic did weigh in, noting that he believes "engagement with different points of view is always preferable to trying to shut them down or ban their free expression."