Sweat: A Very Short Review

by Brenda W. Clough

SweatThe 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.


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About Brenda Clough

Brenda W. Clough spent much of her childhood overseas, courtesy of the U.S. government. Her first fantasy novel, The Crystal Crown, was published by DAW in 1984. She has also written The Dragon of Mishbil (1985), The Realm Beneath (1986), and The Name of the Sun (1988). Her children’s novel, An Impossumble Summer (1992), is set in her own house in Virginia, where she lives in a cottage at the edge of a forest. Her novel How Like a God, available from BVC, was published by Tor Books in 1997, and a sequel, Doors of Death and Life, was published in May 2000. Her latest novels from Book View Cafe include Revise the World (2009) and Speak to Our Desires. Her novel A Most Dangerous Woman is being serialized by Serial Box. Her novel The River Twice is newly available from BVC.


Sweat: A Very Short Review — 3 Comments

  1. I saw Sweat‘s inaugural production last summer out here at the Oregon Shakespeare Festival (and if I read the Post review correctly, the Arena Stage production includes many of that staging’s players and crew); it’s indeed a powerful show. I also agree with the two comments to the Post review that the show’s strength is not in its politics, but in its character development. (My own very short comment on the Ashland/OSF production is included over here

  2. As I recall the complaints were that the plot was predictable — you can see the disasters coming, and by cracky they do come. But that gives it that Greek tragedy vibe. We can all see Oedipus treading passionately towards his doom, and yep, there he goes.
    And! The playwright spent a lot of time in the city the play is set in, Reading, PA, home of our own Sue Lange. I happened to go to Reading this summer, and yes! There are bars just like the one in the play! It’s amazing, like going to Thebes.

  3. It was great to have you in Reading, Brenda. You can actually say you’ve partied with the Lange Gange now. And, believe it or not, so has Lynn Nottage! Miss you and everbody at BVC.