Sweat, Lynn Nottage

Sweat gave Lynn Nottage her second Pulitzer Prize for Drama, her first was for Ruined in 2009.  She is the first woman to ever receive a Pulitzer in Drama.  These are just two of her slew of accolades.

Sweat was originally performed at the Public Theater and it is now on Broadway in the old Studio 54 that has been transformed into a theater.  The play is quite timely as it focuses on the working class in the town of Reading, Pennsylvania.  The play focuses on three women who have been friends and worked together for 30 years, two of these women’s single 18 year old children, one of their husbands, the local bar tender and the brown-skinned American who works at the bar.

The factory is moving jobs to Mexico.  The union can only help for so long.  They can either take a 50% pay cut or nothing.  Yet the factory transfers the jobs that remain, for a time being, to the kid who works at the bar because he is willing to take that pay.  He is ridiculed by the women at the bar as an immigrant who doesn’t belong who is taking their jobs but in reality he was born here.  The anger is all over this play particularly the anger that boils over into one of the children.

Once the factory shifts into closing, all hell breaks lose.  Left jobless, one of these women end up on drugs, another one (the African American character who at one point gets promoted to management after 25 years on the factory floor) works a few different jobs and figures it out, and the 18 year old boys are left without jobs, lost and have left havoc in their past.

The play is powerful.  It is the voice of the working laborer in America.  What is the most disturbing is not only seeing the collapse of the unions but the toll taken on a town that flourished for decades until the factory closed.  The worst part is those jobs are not going to return.  The cost to make those products here are too high and the consumer is not going to pay those prices for those products so workers can make a solid income, essentially the margins are not there.  Machinery will eventually replace the majority of these workers no matter where they are located.  There needs to be a vision for a new economy in these rural towns and that is clearly not in the White House.

It is a play worth seeing.  There are many points here from race to economy to friendships to alcohol and drugs to numb their pain.  Some of the performances are much better than others but the message is constant, loud and clear, we have left many Americans behind and their life as they know it is over.