SWEAT, the Lynn Nottage play now streaming from Chance Theater, proves itself to be a play that offers plenty of food for thought on work, relationships, and the seemingly elusive American Dream. SWEAT is streaming through July 18th.
Set in a factory town, and written based on interviews with residents of a small Pennsylvania town, the play which premiered in 2015 speaks to how intimately a persons work is tied to their sense of identity, and how easily hate can become a key characteristic when their way of life feels threatened.
The play opens and closes with Evan (Jozben Barrett) is a parole officer talking to ex-cons, while the majority of the play happening in 2000 showing the events that ended up with them in jail.
When African American Cynthia (Estelle) is promoted to supervisor, instead of her friend Tracey (Dalia Vosylius), who happens to be white the first small crack in the foundation starts to appear. It widens even further when Cynthis informs her, and their other friend Jessie (Marlene Galán) that the factory is cutting pay. This leads to a lockout, and when Cynthia, as management still goes to work to try to keep the factory open, the feeling of betrayal becomes too personal to ignore.
Set in the local bar run by Stan (Scott Sheldon) who tries to keep the bar as neutral territory, along with the bar back Oscar (Rey Pulice) who the locals treat as an interloper since he is Latin.
Tracey’s son Jason (Darrin Hickok) is white, young, and a friend to those he likes but angry and bitter to those he views as “other”. His friend Chris (Elijah Rashad Reed) is Cynthia’s son who works at the factory but has bigger dreams of college that get interrupted when the strike happens. Brucie (Cary J. Thompson) is an unreliable father to Chris after being locked out of the mills years before and is like a cautionary ghost of Christmas future for those who find themselves on the picket line.
When tensions boil over, things go too far, and the consequences of their actions mean this town, and friendships may be altered forever.
It’s a look at all of those small factory towns and their residents who are adversely impacted when automation comes in, owners cut pay, bring in other cheaper workers, and when the quest of the better bottom line through corporate ruthlessness can kill all sense of hope. It also looks at how white privilege, racism, and violence so quickly come to the surface leaving friendships broken, the lives forever altered by people who feel that their American dream is more important or earned than anyone else’s.
As a whole, the cast is very strong and serves the play very well.
Estelle as Cynthia and Vosylius as Tracey are strong as friends who are on different sides of the situation. Tracey, an ardent unionist sees being locked out as setting her adrift and unappreciated of all of her years of service. Any advancement or pay she thinks is due to her, her work, and not to others who may cross the line. She quickly turns cruel to those she once claimed to love because of this. Cynthia sees her management position as racial acceptance and advancement based on her skills, and her equally devoted time on the factory floor.
Sheldon is calming and steady as Stan, the bartender and towns pacifying middleman who tries to help each side understand calm down. Pulice is also skillful as Oscar, who at first is working quietly in the background before becoming a key player later.
SWEAT is a thought-provoking piece and one that serves as a cautionary tale of what happens when hope curdles into anger and entitlement.
SWEAT is streaming through Chance Theater through July 18th. For ticket access information go to www.ChanceTheater.com
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