Tackling political, racial and class divisions in Trump Era America
“We will not continue to bear our backs for them to strike us down!” Exclaims one of the characters in two-time Pulitzer Prize winning African American Brown and Yale University graduate and Columbia University professor Lynn Nottage’s excoriating and unmistakably timely Pulitzer Prize winning play Sweat directed by Kimberly Senior at the Huntington Avenue Theatre in Boston and extended by popular demand from Jan. 31 through Mar. 1, 2020.
This searing production is about a group of working class friends and co-workers in Reading, Pennsylvania navigating their relationships amidst the pitfalls of corporate downsizing as factories either shut down or initiate the harrowing process of trimming their employees due to robots replacing humans consequential to, mostly and pejoratively, greedy white American patriarchal fat cat’s hungry aspirations for profit proliferation. The multiracial cast speaks to imminent racial and sociopolitical divisions in America and even beyond as matters of religion, immigration and economic inequity galvanizing friends to turn against one another as focal points of blame resulting from disenfranchising and disadvantageous institutional policies affecting the bottom feeders of our society, coming from uppermost political hierarchies in the echelons of those bearing the lambasted breadth of institutional power.
Sweat speaks to the issues that divides us in Trump Era America with ruthless and unrepentant honesty, a vivid sociopolitical theatrical avatar of the frail facade of the human condition fundamentally—although clumsily, transcending our inexorable foibles to emerge victorious even in spite of ourselves. The production creates a realistic atmosphere with believable staging and true to life characters that one can immediately recognize and relate to. The story is told using a flash-back and flash-forward effect, that I found to be sometimes somewhat confounding, but one can still manage to follow the plot with relative ease and clarity. Controversial issues like Black History Month is brought up when a white character bellows “Make white people feel guilty month…[and] Why don’t we have a white history month?” and one liners like “They don’t even see you…you think they give a damn about your black *ss?”
The play raises questions about race, class, friendships and family and rightfully without providing immediate answers, as is the responsibility of effective art to raise questions and allows the audience to come to their own conclusions. Essentially and despite our differences, Sweat sends one clear message: that our collective “humanity is at the core of everything…” and I couldn’t agree more. See it and you be the judge.
I give this profound production a five out of five stars!
Jacques Fleury’s book Sparks in the Dark: A Lighter Shade of Blue, A Poetic Memoir about life in Haiti & America was featured in the Boston Globe. It’s Always Sunrise Somewhere and Other Stories is a collection of short fictional stories spanning the pervasive human condition. Their topics range from politics to romantics, from sex to spirituality, from religion to dissension. His latest book, Chain Letter to America: The One Thing You Can Do to End Racism, is available at the Harvard Book Store and world wide online. His CD A Lighter Shade of Blue as a lyrics writer with neo-folk group Sweet Wednesday is available on ITunes and Spotify. He lives in Cambridge, Massachusetts.
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