Thursday, May 25, 2017


The old Studio 54 dance club is now the Studio 54 Theatre. The stage is small and the nine-piece cast of Lynn Nottage's "Sweat" use every inch. We feel the angst of once-thriving Reading, PA, as its factories get ready to pack up and move to Mexico, leaving behind the workers who once felt protected by their good union jobs and at the same time proud to be turning out an excellent product on the line.

Almost all of these same union workers, however, are white. They have been oblivious to their black and Latino brothers and sisters denied access to the union and therefore to steady employment. When the company brass decides to close the factory, all these submerged grievances explode to the surface.

The story's heart is borne by three women friends. Johanna Day plays Tracey, who has spent thirty-two years on the line. She goes up for a promotion along with her friend Cynthia (Michelle Wilson), the first black woman to ever have earned her union card. There was never racial animosity between these two women who have grown up together, but now, when Cynthia gets the promotion, Tracey's disappointment is masked by her belief Cynthia was chosen only because of her skin color. The third friend is Jessie (Alison Wright), who we see in various flashbacks as she descends from hard worker into addiction.

James Colby is excellent as Stan, the bartender in the tavern where most of the action takes place. He and his father, as well as his grandfather, once worked in the same factory. We loved Khris Davis as Chris, Cynthia's son, who along with his friend Jason (Will Pullen), Jessie's son, can no longer see any future for themselves in Reading.

Carlo Albán has the unfortunate role as Oscar, the Colombian-American, also born and raised in Reading. Blacks and whites can agree on one thing: even if he's a home-boy, there is nothing lower than a Spanish-speaking scab. Tough luck, Oscar.


The San Francisco Theater Blog Big Apple Division grants "Sweat" Three Stars with a BANGLE OF PRAISE. The story, the ensemble of actors and director (Kate Whoriskey) earn one star each as the various personal and political threads tie themselves together at the end. The BANGLE is for how Lynn Nottage makes us tune into the longing every character feels for the America they either once experienced or dreamed about -- when people had good jobs and the respect that went along with hard work. As President Orange has said: these problems are complicated.

Studio 54
254 West 54th Street, New York City
Through June 18

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