Sweat, by Lynn Nottage

A couple of weekends ago I saw SWEAT, the Pulitzer Prize winning play by Lynn Nottage, on Broadway. I had no idea what it was about but I’d heard everything from “weird” to “intense.” It was no at all what I was expecting. It was about a group of friends in the factor town of Reading, PA and how they’re adversely affected by NAFTA. Could it be more timely? I think not. Anyways, here’s my brain dump on it:

This piece reminded me a lot of Clyborne Park, probably because of the timeline of the plot. Clyborne Park took place in two different decades and although Sweat switched between past and present, both pieces used time jumps to show how things have declined in their respective neighborhoods.

Sweat was the perfect representation of racism in America, especially after there are layoffs and people who look like immigrants are hired because said-immigrants are desperate for higher paying jobs. The promotion of one of the African American member of the primary group of friends also brings out her friend’s true colors (“they get tax breaks because she’s a minority”).

The ensemble cast was ace, with not a weak link onstage from where I was sitting, and these characters go for a ride on a very emotional rollercoaster. Shitty acting would’ve made this unwatchable.

There’s excellent writing onstage at Studio 54 to bring to life something that’s very current. It’s over two hours, but it flies. It’s playing through June 4th.

By the Way, Meet Vera Stark, by award winning playwright Lynn Nottage, is the newest work at Second Stage right now and it’s a fascinatingly interesting and thought-provoking piece.  By the way, I have no idea where they conjured the name from because the “By the Way,” in my humble opinion, is totally unnecessary.  I digress.

Vera Stark is about a black woman, Vera, who’s an aspiring actress as well as servant to a prominent white movie star Gloria Mitchell (Stephanie J. Block).  Vera asserts herself with her friend Lottie (Kimberly Herbert Gregory) over how she would never lower herself to play the role of a slave in a movie, but given the first opportunity to do so, she ceases the moment.  Act Two takes place many years later on a talk show after Vera’s career has sky rocketed and she is now retiring from the industry.  There are hints that Vera and Gloria were actually sisters, but it’s never revealed what is true and what isn’t.

The play is an insightful look at race during that decade and race relations many years later and whether or not Vera compromising her dignity was worth it in retrospect.

… Vera Stark plays at Second Stage through June 12th.  Click here for more information.

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