Jane Zussman/Greater Lansing Ubiquitous Theatre/Oct. 5, 2019
Sweat is a powerful, complex experience at Riverwalk. New-to-Riverwalk, veteran director George Popovich has piloted a talented cast through this storm of a play which is rated R for violence, language and themes that some may find uncomfortable. Be sure to read Dr. Popovich’s extensive Director’s Note for his personal perspective and some intriguing insights into this script — which sounds notes of Death of a Salesman as the modern tragic human story unfolds.
Recorded excerpts from radio “news of the day” set the two time zones: 2000 and 2008 in a bar in the factory town of Reading, Pennsylvania, reminding us of the recent historic context in which these characters struggle to hold on to their living standards, friendships and dreams despite layoffs and union-busting. This is a multi-faceted tale with Rose Jangmi Cooper dramatically caught between being “them” and “us” after receiving a promotion. What is “right” and/or possible is not clear.
Rose and Maureen Sawdon are factory-worker mothers of factory-worker sons Lekeathon Wilson and Connor Kelly, young friends swept into a tragic act of violence. (Kudos to Matthew Kowakcyzk, MSU BFA Acting senior who choreographed this fight with disturbing effectiveness.) Connor brings an insistent intensity, and Lekeathon breaks our hearts but gives us hope.
Madeline Nash is the sometimes volatile drunk between naps on a roll of paper towels. Bartender Scott Pohl left the factory after an injury and now serves as a wise father figure. Eddie Heldt is an intense and affecting hispanic bus-boy who complicates the situation by crossing picket lines. Julian Van Dyke does an impressive turn in two extremely different roles.