REVIEW: Sweat’s journey to the recent past provides insight on how we arrived at our present-day circumstance

Sweat,  by Lynn Nottage | Actors’ Theatre | May 16 – 25 |

The set, designed by Christian Poquette, is the ubiquitous dive bar so familiar you can practically smell the cheap beer and stale cigarettes.

The time is divided between the year 2000 and 2008, the local factory was still grinding along with a union crew who spends their afterwork hours tossing back a few (and sometimes a few more) and talking about their modest hopes and dreams. It’s the universal, relatable human desire of providing for your family, seeing your kids do well, and enjoying a little time to share some laughs with friends.

A series of events, from international trade policies to increased automation to weakening of the union to the Great Recession, disrupt the industry in which these people have invested their labor, their health, and their lives generation after generation. When the story flashes forward and back, we are left to fill in the eight-year gap on our own, but it’s a story we know all too well.

Inspired by the events of Occupy Wall Street and the challenge to the 1%, Nottage explores the frustrations and misplaced anger when the faceless, nameless forces of those in power push those at the bottom of the economic hierarchy even lower. Looking around us in 2019, it seems the tactic to escalate the division among the common people is even more successful in widening the gap and increasing the wealth and power for the few.

Co-Directors Fred Sebulske and Kyle Los keep the attention on the characters, and let the nuances of each reveal truths about human nature under pressure. It was great to see actress Lisa Nowak return to stage after a decade-long hiatus, along with the rest of the competent cast that plays authentically to the individuals and the similarities that bond them together; and then tragically, to the differences that eventually tear them apart.

Wouldn’t it be wonderful, really, if we all put the focus back on our similarities and learned to recognize the true threats to our current and future hopes and dreams?

Sweat runs through May 25 at Spectrum Theatre. Ticket information at

Reviewed by: Kerri VanderHoff

Categories: Theatre

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