Review: Sweat at Capital Stage

Nothing can keep these two friends apart—as long as their jobs don’t get outsourced, that is.

Nothing can keep these two friends apart—as long as their jobs don’t get outsourced, that is.

Photo courtesy of Charr Crail

Showtimes: Wed 7pm, Thu 7pm, Fri 8pm, Sat 2pm & 8pm, Sun 2pm. Through 11/18; $28-$40; Capital Stage, 2215 J Street, (916) 995-5465;
Rated 5.0

When you think of a neighborhood bar, you think of Cheers—a place where everybody knows your name. It’s a local gathering spot where drinks are filled and confessions spilled, where friendships and loyalties are forged and sometimes broken, and where the pulse and politics of a community can be read.

Lynn Nottage’s 2017 Pulitzer Prize-winning drama Sweat, now playing at Capital Stage, is set in a neighborhood bar in Reading, Pennsylvania, a town that was sustained by blue-collar industrial factory workers for generations. But in 2000, black clouds loomed overhead, and line workers gathered after shifts to drink and trade jokes, stories and increased rumors of picket lines, layoffs and factory closures.

Sweat shifts back and forth between 2000 and 2008, following a cast of characters and their stories—a haunting look at the past that helped create the present political climate of division and tension. It’s the narrative of the Rust Belt and other hard-hit areas, where the disillusioned and demoralized working class feels increasingly disenfranchised.

Helping set the time and tone of each era is a television that airs news clips on the economy, trade deals, politics and the closing of local plants, while a jukebox plays relevant and timely songs.

The large, nine-member cast is completely captivating, with the tempo and tension carefully orchestrated by director Michael Stevenson. It’s a tour-de-force for Capital Stage; a timely, thought-provoking and unsettling peek into lives and communities that seem forever floundering for a future.