How Not Knowing Can Lead To Destruction
Deindustrialization is no stranger within American cities, especially the manufacturing industry where social and economic change can lead to the re-establishment of industrial communities. During downsizing and layoffs, even gainfully employed unionized members can be on the chopping block as companies are excited about the NAFTA agreement, proceed with the removal and reduction of their job; changing the trajectory of each worker lives.
Goodman Theatre brings to the stage for the first time Two-time Pulitzer Prize winner Playwright Lynn Nottage play 'SWEAT,' which is riveting and compelling. Director by Ron O.J. Parson, Sweat tells the story of confused and angry union workers who are dedicated and loyal to their jobs, slowly seeing their livelihood becoming non-existing by a company that is looking to save money promised by the North American Free Trade Agreement.
‘SWEAT' gives insight into the deindustrialization that swept across America and changed the landscape of many mechanized cities between 2000 and 2008.
Set in one of the poorest cities in the country, Reading, Pennsylvania, a once thriving city 48 miles northwest of Philadelphia. Known for being a city that profit off of producing iron products, cannons, rifles, and ammunition for Washington's troop was now demoralized due to experiencing a decrease in jobs, population, and an increase in crime.
'SWEAT' is a provocative and powerful play that is cleverly written by Nottage that makes you experience the narrative as she shines a light on blue-collar workers while examining the damage, desperation and racial tension between friends and those taking away jobs from privileged whites that were passed down from generations. 'SWEAT' also deals with how the greed of a company and the shrinking employment opportunities, pit worker against worker, leading to the declination of a close-knit group of diverse friends who find themselves in a situation that destroyed their trust.
The essential element is very familiar. It deals with the predicament of many blue-collar Americans where decisions are made forcing contract renegotiations. Factories across America were saturated with good paying jobs with little to no education that paid $30 an hour, which helped feed their families; but greed and lower wages caused companies to cut salaries by offering $15 to keep their jobs and face layoffs. Even if you decide to go on a strike, other Americans who were not allowed to have a well-paid union job due to lack of ‘history' in the community might be willing to take the job even if they were called "Scabs."
The morality of this cycle is subjugated by generations of white privilege and membership, looking after its rewards and preventing immigrants from reaping any of the benefits. Sweat deals with these privileged and unprivileged workers and how living with or without privilege can change during the night.
Nottage chooses to use the bar as the central location, however, unlike the sitcom ‘Cheers' with the opening theme song "Where Everybody Knows Your Name" was a catchphrase that was prevalent as the episodes, this bar is filled with rumors of layoffs and job cuts. The friends that once gathered to drink, relax, celebrate birthdays, dance and talk about life, are all consumed in political mayhem as extreme racial tension heats up. As roles changes, friends become foes and life in a stable working-class town soon starts to fall apart.
Keith Kupferer who has always owned his character in whatever he plays was once again brilliant as Stan the bartender who tries to diffuse any situation as it escalates.
'SWEAT' leading white character, Tracey (Kirsten Fitzgerald) lively performance is nothing short of perfection; especially when her livelihood has been compromised. She takes her anger out on a non-union Columbian guy, Oscar (Steve Casillas) who will take the job making $15 in a heartbeat. Tracey also unleashes her rage onto her longtime African American friend Cynthia (Tyla Abercrumbie) who has been promoted to be her supervisor because she feels that she is more qualified and has more years at the plant.
Abercrombie, who is a director as well, is incredible in her role as Cynthia, who is caught between elevating herself in a position as an African American individual, she is also in a role that has never been given to a woman. Cynthia has the troubling feeling of being used as a pawn when the ball drops while her white bosses sit comfortably in their well-ventilated offices; which isn't sitting well in her spirit.
Jessie (Chaon Cross), a younger white woman who plays the hardnosed, take no shit generational family worker is quickly spiraling out of control with her excessive drinking. Unfortunately, she is going down the same path as Brucie (Andre Teamer) Cynthia's husband an older African- American character whose hardship has led him to self-abuse.
The main focus of the story starts from the very beginning with the younger generation plant workers who are the sons of Tracey and Cynthia, Jason (Mike Cherry) and Chris (Edgar Miguel Sanchez) from the opening scene which takes place in 2008 at the parole office where parole officer Evan (Ronald L. Conner) is speaking with the two parolees.
Jason who has white supremacist tattoos on his forehead and a black eye and Chris, a bible-toting reformed prisoner who were once close friends, are telling their story to the officer about their current situation and their brief encounter.
It is through flashbacks ‘SWEAT' unfolds and tells the story of how friends end up as enemies caught up in the economic demise of deindustrialization at its worst!
Director Ron OJ Parson's production continues to show why he is at the top of his game as a director. ‘SWEAT' is a top notched play and sure to be one of Lynn Nottage catalog pieces for many decades. Sweat makes you feel every aspect (with some humor) of each characters fate and fears regarding their future. This play shines a light on how we look at each other and how quickly we can turn against one another when life makes us Sweat! Kudos to Goodman for bringing this exceptional play to the Albert Theatre.
Let's Play ‘Highly Recommend' that you check out ‘SWEAT' an American drama at Goodman Theatre.
Goodman Theatre Presents
BY LYNN NOTTAGE
DIRECTED BY RON OJ PARSON
March 9 - April 14, 2019
Running time: 2 hours, 25 minutes
Tickets: $20-$80 at 312-443-3800 or www.goodmantheatre.org
Filed under: ChicagoNow