by Brenda W. Clough
The news is an endless fountain of inspiration. The play which is staged this season at Arena Stage in Washington DC is ripped from the headlines. Sweat is the story you’ve seen in your newspaper or newsfeed over and over in the past ten years or so. The plant closes and suddenly all the workers are circling the drain. The play is set in the middle of the Bush years, 2000 to 2008, and it’s brutal. With the loss of the factory and its union jobs all the bonds of the community dissolve like an iron nail in Coke. Friendship, love, family, pride — they all go, and are replaced by poverty, drug abuse, crime, and hate. It reminds me of the inevitable, inexorable dooms of Greek drama. No less that Oedipus, these people are treading to their doom. Here is the root of all the political angst we’re seeing this election season.
The playwright, Lynn Nottage, has won the pulitzer and the MacArthur Genius Grant, and wow! She knows everything there is to know about how to put a story together, tight and taut and without a scrap of fat.