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Theatre / Sweat

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Sweat is a 2015 play by Lynn Nottage.

It is a working-class drama set in Reading, Pennsylvania, with the bulk of the action in the year 2000. The action centers on the workers at a manufacturing plant in town. Tracey, who is white, and Cynthia, who is black, are long-time best friends and co-workers at the Olmstead manufacturing plant. Their friendship, however, is put to the test when they both apply for a promotion to management and Cynthia gets it. A far more severe test comes when the owners of the plant lock out the union and demand they accept a radical reduction in wages. As the factory workers suffer through a prolonged lockout and scabs take their places at the plant, the bonds of friendship come undone.



  • Bar Brawl: With a tragic ending. A fight breaks out between Oscar, who is a scab at the plant, and Chris and Jason, union members locked out of the plant. It ends with Stan getting cracked in the head with a bat and left with permanent brain damage.
  • The Bartender: Stan, who tends bar after having suffered an injury at the plant. He tries to be a neutral arbiter between all the people fighting about the lockout.
  • Breast Attack: A melancholy Tracey remembers one time they went to Atlantic City, and a woman with an enhanced bosom started hitting on Cynthia's husband Brucie right in front of Cynthia. Cynthia sank her fingernails right into the other woman's breast, and a Cat Fight ensued.
  • Downer Ending: The plant is closed, and all the jobs are gone. Tracey and Cynthia's friendship is shattered and Tracey is a drug addict. Jason and Chris are ex-cons, left unable to say anything to each other, and Stan is crippled and suffering with brain damage after getting hit with the bat.
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  • Drugs Are Bad: By the end of the play Tracey has gotten hooked on opiates, and is in a sad state.
  • Flash Forward: One scene jumps the action from 2000 back to 2008 to reveal that Cynthia, who in 2000 was promoted to management and locked the workers out, has herself lost her job and is scrounging for part-time work.
  • How We Got Here: The play starts in 2008, with a parole officer having interviews with Chris and Jason, recently released from prison. Then the bulk of the action unfolds in 2000.
  • Kitchen Sink Drama: A sad tale of working class people sinking into despair as the manufacturing jobs go away.
  • Lady Drunk: At the start of the play, even before the workers are locked out and things get desperate, Jessie is at the bar getting so drunk she has to be helped home. She's sad about her lost opportunities in life. Near the end a broke Tracey appears to have become this as well, cadging free drinks from Stan.
  • Local Hangout: The bar, where most of the action takes place. Everyone knows each other, and everyone meets there to commiserate about the sad state of the town.
  • We Used to Be Friends: Tracey is particularly bitter and enraged at Cynthia, for being part of management and locking the other workers out.