The Omaha Community Playhouse recently opened ‘Sweat’, a Pulitzer prize winning play about the world of manufacturing jobs.
The play takes place in Reading, Pennsylvania. It is a story ripped from the headlines about union workers at Olstead Metal Tubing Company who are losing their jobs. The Omaha Community Playhouse production is directed by Susan Baer Collins. She has a great cast in this.
Thomas Becker plays bartender Stan who works at the local bar where the plant workers hang out. He was a former line worker until an accident forced him to leave the plant. He limps as he keeps the bar going for the workers who he calls his friends. There are three female workers who practically live at the bar: Jessie, played by Jennifer Gilg; Cynthia, played by Kathy Tyree; and Tracey, played by Laura Leininger-Campbell. The women have developed a great friendship over 20 years of working together on the line. These three actresses are fantastic. Their characters also drink a lot and use very adult language in the show, which is very realistic as the line workers in the factory are tough cookies. On the line, they make good wages. Other factories in the area have had strikes and those workers are hurting.
The play begins in 2008 as a parole officer talks to Cynthia’s son, Chris, played by Brandon Williams. The parole officer is played by George Weaver. After the two have a discussion, the scene changes to the parole officer talking to Tracey’s son, Jason, who is played by Josh Peyton. It is established that the two young men are connected, but you don’t know what the connection or the crime was.
The play goes back to the year 2000. The location is the local bar. The three girls are celebrating Tracey’s birthday and all three are very drunk. There are rumors about the plant and what is going to happen to it. The girls are talking about a job opening as a supervisor. The people on the line never get promoted to those positions. Cynthia’s estranged husband, Brucie — played by L.”James” Wright — is out of work since the plant he worked at closed down. He is also a drug addict and has stolen money from Cynthia. Cynthia cares about him but wants him to find a job and stop the drugs. Chris cares but is tired of his father’s actions.
An employee at the bar is Oscar, played by Emmanuel Onate. He is Latino and most of the people in the bar just ignore him.
Cynthia gets the job as a supervisor and that creates tensions with her friends. They wonder if she got the position because she was black. They also feel she is not telling them what is going on at the plant. One day, the company moves machines out of the building. Eventually, a strike takes place. Union workers are shut out of the plant. Oscar makes the mistake of crossing the picket lines as a scab because he needs the money.
One day at the bar, Jason and Chris have a confrontation with Oscar and Stan. Stan gets seriously hurt. This fight sequence is really choreographed well by Kevin Barratt.
The play then jumps back to 2008. Chris and Jason go back to the bar after serving time in prison. Jason has acquired prison tattoos on his face. They face the reality of what they did years before. All of the actors give stellar performances.
This is an incredible show about the problems of American manufacturing losing jobs to foreign companies. We really care about the characters and feel bad for them for the changes they are forced to make in their lives. “Sweat” is a great play and worthy of your attention.
The first act of the show runs one hour and 20 minutes. After a 15 minute-intermission, the second act runs one hour and 10 minutes.
Ticket prices range from $36 to $44 depending on the performance. Student tickets are $18, but be forewarned that there is very adult language in this production. Curtain times are 7:30 p.m. Thursday through Saturday, and 2 p.m. Sundays. The box office can be reached by calling 402-553-0800.
You can also purchase tickets at the Omaha Community Playhouse at 6915 Cass St. in Omaha. Hours are 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. Tuesday and Wednesday; 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. Thursdays through Saturdays, and noon to 4 p.m. Sundays. The box office is closed on Mondays. You can also buy tickets online to omahaplayhouse.com.