Welcome to ‘Sweat’ a World Premier play by Lynn Nottage now playing at the Bowmer Theatre at the Oregon Shakespeare Festival.
The play set between 2000 and 2008 in Reading Pennsylvania, one of the poorest cities in America. It’s a sad story of what happens when good paying factory jobs go away and the devastating financial consequences that unemployment brings.
We meet three woman factory workers: Tracey ( Terry McMahon) Cynthia (Kimberly Scott) and Jessie ( K.T Vogt) in the local tavern after work, gossiping and laughing about everyday things with the bar tender Stan ( Jack Willis). You notice they are drinking excessively, especially Jessie who’s life has been taken over by alcohol and seems to be drunk most of the time, also working at the bar is Oscar an natural born American from the Dominican Republic, he would really love a good job at the factory but has no skills.
Cynthia and Tracey have sons who are friends, both have good jobs at the plant, while Tracey’s son Jason (Stephen Michael Spencer ) is happy to work at the plant for the rest of his working life Cynthia’s son Chris ( Tramell Tillman) is saving his money to go to college.
At the beginning of the play they are all working shifts at the plant with good money and benefits but their middle class lives are about to change as management wants the union to agree to longer working hours and loss of some vital benefits. Tracey, Cynthia and their sons vote NO. What happens next is the management lock out the workers from the plant and bring in an unskilled workforce, Oscar from the tavern is happy to be one of the unskilled workers to get a job.
Cynthia and Tracey who thought they had good paying jobs until they retired suddenly find themselves without work and their American Dream shattered.
Things will change dramatically for Jason and Chris because of one indecent of anger, rage and racial tension, one late night at the Tavern.
This play is very powerful, you feel their desperation, hopelessness and profound sadness as they struggle to find any minimum wage jobs they can get. They long to return to the way things were but unfortunately will never be again.