Can friendships and family endure when all hopes of economic stability and mobility disappear?
Factory worker friends in this impoverished American town, laugh, talk, and drink their cares away, despite the constant threat of company shutdowns. When promotions and layoffs are rumored, tensions and jealousy begin to rip apart their community. An intense examination of race, class and the human costs of capitalism, Sweat captures the ever-present battle between human needs and business against a pivotal time in this American Rust Belt town. Can friendships and family endure when all hopes of economic stability and mobility disappear? Winner of the Pulitzer Prize for Drama and nominated for a Tony Award for Best Play, Sweat is a landmark achievement of American theater.
Why this play now?
Researched and written in the waning years of Obama’s presidency, Sweat was first produced in 2017 amid the rapid and wrenching changes that followed. Five years later, we live in a world roiling with an anger and confusion that seems somehow so far beyond that time, as to make us appear almost quaint, in our naïveté. Through this play, Ms. Nottage does us the great service of telling a story that allows us to see the connection between the shared struggles of everyday Americans and the explosive actions taken by some of those same Americans against our own government, on January 6, 2021. Of course, she couldn’t have known, that the changes she was chronicling among American workers, the cracks that were already present would not only remain untended, but would be exacerbated for political gain, becoming great fissures that many of us feel at a loss to heal.
But Sweat is the farthest thing from a polemic. Its power is in its intimacy. We spend time with life-long friends and co-workers whose love and loyalty is tested and ultimately shattered by the weight of their battles to survive. In America we struggle with race, many of us trying to deny its continuing influence on every aspect of our lives. But class? We rarely admit its existence at all; pretending that good character and hard work will make us rich. We are disappointed and sometimes enraged to find this is not so. Sweat is a deeply human and boldly political play. Through a lens that is both critical and loving; full of humor, yet unflinchingly facing the tragedies large and small that have enveloped and overwhelmed American culture, Sweat invites us to see each other and the world we live in, more clearly.
We need that.
-Andrea J Dymond