Sweat. It’s uncomfortable. It’s sticky. Don’t wipe it away. Sit with it. It has a story to tell.
A story so compelling, that it won a Pulitzer. Sweat takes place in Reading, Pennsylvania, the heart of America’s rust belt. The town’s economy relies on Olstead’s Factory, which is now moving operations to Mexico, cutting wages for remaining employees, and effectively forcing Union workers out. Sweat brings entitlement, racism, classicism, and socio-economic divide to the forefront. The dialogue is heated, the emotions raw, the characters flawed and suffering.
At first, I was off-put by the excessive language, and the seemingly bawdry behavior that takes place over a few too many beers. It’s all too easy to separate oneself from “these types of people”, to feel superior to imbibing factory workers whose only apparent goal is to work the line until they can retire.
And that is what makes Sweat an important performance to experience. Judgment only creates separation where none belongs; judgment only creates suffering where there needn’t be any. There is no “us” vs. “them.” And yet, here we are.
Sweat allowed me to see my own biases, to sit with them uncomfortably, the feel the heat of shame. Sweat also allowed me to see the redemption that comes with the willingness to open our hearts and minds, to reach across the divide, to recognize that we are, at our core, the same.
Sweat leaves its audience with relevant, timely, and needed food-for-thought, and hopefully the inspiration to continue to important dialogue and work off-stage, into our communities. I encourage every adult (perhaps ages 12 and up) to see the show, and to talk about it afterwards.
Sweat is playing at the Guthrie from July 27-August 21, 2022. Tickets prices range from $15-80.
Review by Kavita Battula