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.

It’s been a long day’s night.

I knew Eugene O’Neill’s Long Day’s Journey Into Night was long. I supervised wardrobe on it in college and sat through it (backstage) about a dozen times. That was the longest week ever. But I’d studied it in multiple classes in college and John Gallagher Jr. was in the cast (alongside the amazing Jessica Lange) so I wanted to see it. 

I remembered it was 3h15m, maybe 3.5hr. But when I found out it was 3.45, I was a little nervous. And when I found out there was only one intermission, I was totally scared.

Let me just start by saying that it is certifiably insane to only have one intermission. Two one-hour-and-forty-five-minute acts with only a 15 minute break is criminal. 

This show has comedic relief, sometimes, but overall it’s four hours of a depressing day for the Tyrone family. Jessica Lange carries this show effortlessly as the morphine addicted Mary Tyrone. I can’t imagine how tired she is at the end of this show. Gabriel Byrne gives a brilliant performance as the short-tempered and stingy James Tyrone. John Gallagher Jr. and Michael Shannon as Edmond Tyrone and James Tyrone Jr. (respectively) put their hearts entirely into their performances.

I won’t lie: I was maybe falling asleep during the last 45 minutes. It had already been a long day and the show was the longest day that I’d ever endured. 

I’m glad I saw it but I have to say that you should drink at least a triple espresso before you take your seat.

I scored a comp to Roundabout’s production Therese Raquin, by Helen Edmundson, on Wednesday afternoon and I decided to go despite having no idea what about and having not really heard any super positive buzz about it. I like Kiera Knightley and I love Judith Light, so how bad could it be?

I’m happy to report that I was pleasantly surprised. Therese Raquin (Kiera Knightley) was about a 21-year-old girl in the mid-18th century in Paris. Raquin was orphaned and being raised by her aunt (Judith Light) and when Raquin and her cousin (Gabriel Ebert) are twenty-one, they oblige the aunt’s wishes to marry. Wouldn’t you be unhappy if he was coerced into marrying your cousin? Yeah.

What I didn’t expect was the thriller aspect of the play. The second act was the deterioration of Therese’s mental state as what her and her new husband (who’s also her former lover, played by Matt Ryan) did starts to haunt them. Knightley didn’t disappoint and was extremely impressive as Therese. Ebert, Light, and Ryan were also effective in their roles. Ebert’s portrayal of Camille, Therese’s cousin, reminded me of the his portrayal of Matilda’s father in Matilda

I never found myself bored or checking my watch during Therese Raquin. If you like a good thriller, it’s worth a trip to midtown. 

I handled a survey for the Broadway League the Friday before last at Roundabout’s production of On Twentieth Century. I knew Kristen Chenoweth was in it, I’d heard vaguely that Peter Gallagher was in it, and then I learned Andy Karl was also in it. I also remembered Chenoweth staring in a concert production of this about 15 years ago. In the same role. I was a little skeptical.

A love story that takes place on a train from Chicago to NYC, a hack Broadway producer (Peter Gallagher) is trying to get his former love (Kristen Chenoweth) who’s now a huge movie star to do his next show so it’s a hit. She hates (slash loves) him and her new boyfriend, a vapid costar (played brilliantly by Andy Karl) is constantly at her side. 

On Twentieth Century is ridiculous and I was regretting my decision to see it on a Friday night but even I (a contemporary musical snob) was won over the end of it. If you just let go and have a good time, it is just that.