November 15, 2022
Powerful 'Sweat' Gets First-Rate Providence Premiere
Will Demers READ TIME: 2 MIN.
Giving a voice to the working class of America during a time when they were promised prosperity in an economy that eventually let them down seems a daunting task. Blue collar workers who have remained in jobs at, say, a steel mill, for decades find that their good money for long hours and hard work meant little to politicians and high level management. This isn't a new story, and yet it remains incredibly relevant even now.
"Sweat" is Lynn Nottage's ("Intimate Apparel," "Ruined") masterpiece of the American working class, (it won the Pulitzer Prize for drama in 2017), and it arrived at the Gamm amidst the Midterm elections. It makes a powerful Providence theater premiere, not just for its topicality but its strong cast of newcomers and Gamm veterans. Steve Kidd as Stan, Casey Seymour Kim as Tracey and Kym Gomes as Cynthia lead a fantastic cast, guided by Gamm Associate Artistic director Rachel Walshe.
In Walshe's production, it seems as though the audience is the proverbial fly on the wall for scenes where Nottage's fully realized characters pour out their hearts and passions. Set in Pennsylvania in 2000 and spanning eight years in the lives of three childhood friends and their families, "Sweat" is no slow burn; it packs a punch in the first act only to top that in its second. Two ex-convicts, Chris (a powerful and charismatic Erik Robles,) and Jason (Conor Delaney, making his debut with an electric performance,) checking in with their parole officer (Jermaine L. Pearson, another solid debut) are filled with guilt, regret and shame.
Their story is revealed in flashbacks, yet this nonlinear storytelling is a strength with Nottage's well-drawn, familiar characters. As Oscar, the catalyst to much of the drama, Jaime Jose Hernandez brings a quiet intensity to his debut, and Jason Quinn, a familiar face to Rhode Island theater and Gamm audiences, turns in a heartbreaking performance as Brucie. Rounding out the players is Kelly Seigh, who can play a drunk girl better than most, providing a brief comic release.
But Gomes as Cynthia takes her complex character and portrays her beautifully. Her interaction with Kim's Tracey is the stuff that great theater is all about; not just playing a character but truly inhabiting it. And Steve Kidd, who offers Stan's voice of reason, brings the story full circle. "Sweat" ticks all the boxes here with great storytelling, drama, tragedy and human relationships tinged with reality – something that other forms of entertainment may lack, but not at this theater.
"Sweat" is running through November 27 at The Gamm Theatre, 1245 Jefferson Boulevard, Warwick, RI 02886. For information or tickets call 401-723-4266 or visit www.gammtheatre.org.