Factory workers in Reading, Pa. have plenty to 'Sweat' about

Matt DeCaro, Liz Zweifler and Danielle Lee Greaves appear in Asolo Rep’s production of “Sweat,” by Lyn Nottage.

Asolo Rep presents the working-class drama “Sweat,” by Lyn Nottage, as current U.S. job employment numbers are better than anytime since the 1960s.

The play looks at the economic collapses of 2000 and 2008, specifically in Reading. Pennsylvania, where friendships are put to the test as factory workers are laid off from their jobs and factory closures transform the American dream into a nightmare.

Nottage sets the play in a local bar. Line employees from the nearby factory meet there after work to celebrate and/or commiserate. As the economy sours, there’s more of the latter.

When Cynthia (Danielle Lee Greaves) earns a promotion over her friend Tracy, already strained relationships take another hit, exacerbated by the fact that Cynthia is black.

Promoting a black person over a white one is something that never would have happened in the past, whether the economy was good or bad.

Tracy (Carolyn Ann Hoerdmann) is upset but so are all the regulars — with the exception of barkeeper Stan (Matt Decaro), who tries to keep things calm even as this pot is ready to boil over in the face of the possibility the factory could move to Mexico, costing everyone their jobs.

Substories involve Tracy’s son Jason (Matthew Kresch); Cynthia’s son Chris (Kevin Minor); and Cynthia’s husband Brucie (Bruce A. Young), a drug addict.

When Oscar (Rudy Galvan), the young Hispanic kid doing menial labor at the bar, sees a chance to earn more money by crossing the picket lines at the factory and taking one of the vacated jobs on the line, it adds still more fuel to the fire.

Most of the action happens in the bar in 2008, as the housing crash and recession spread across the U.S. Reading, a working-class community, was especially hard hit as factories failed, one after the other. There’s a flashback to 2000 as well.

Superimposed above the stage as scenes change are videos of political leaders of those times making speeches.

Directed by Nicole A. Watson, with special effects and a convertible set by Paige Hathaway, “Sweat,” winner of the Pulitzer Prize for drama in 2017, might serve to explain some things happening currently in Congress.

“Sweat” continues through April 13 in rotating repertory and includes several public programming offerings, such as “The Scoop” one hour before each performance, discussing ideas and inspirations that contributed to the making of “Sweat”; Tuesday Talkbacks on Feb. 26, March 26 and April 2; and more.

Tickets begin at $29 per person. Call the box office at 941-351-8000; visit the box office at the FSU Center for the Performing Arts, 5555 North Tamiami Trail, Sarasota; or visit: AsoloRep.org.


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