The Pulitzer Prize-winning playwright debuted her “scorching” new play at the Oregon Shakespeare Festival. Directed by Kate Whoriskey, the piece explores the interpersonal–as well as race, class, and cultural–relationships between factory workers and friends threatened by imminent layoffs and a horrific crime in the community.
By Charles Isherwood at The New York Times:
Ms. Whoriskey and Ms. Nottage drew on interviews with residents of Reading, Pa., ranked among the poorest cities in America, as part of their research for the play. And to describe the play as a trenchant and insightful analysis of the consequences of the sharp decline in factory work in the country, and the gutting of once-mighty unions, may make it sound like a hortatory tract aimed at raising awareness of the human blight these trends have caused.
Forget all that. “Sweat” is by no means a thinly dramatized op-ed piece. From first moments to last, this compassionate but cleareyed play throbs with heartfelt life, with characters as complicated as any you’ll encounter at the theater today, and with a nifty ticking time bomb of a plot. That the people onstage are middle-class or lower-middle-class folks — too rarely given ample time on American stages — makes the play all the more vital a contribution to contemporary drama.
And while its trajectory is dark, even devastating, “Sweat” is damn funny, too: Ms. Nottage knows well that the natural reactions to the assaults of life faced by these particular people are a savage sense of humor, and, more damagingly, a swan dive into the comforts of alcohol and drugs.
This story was originally published on August 16th, 2015.