Review: “Sweat” — Chance Theater, in Association with Morgan-Wixson Theatre

Updated: Jun 23, 2021

"When Your Job Is Your Life"

Anaheim’s Chance Theater is excited to announce that the Orange County premiere of Lynn Nottage’s scorching and widely acclaimed play, “Sweat,” will be the second show in its 23rd Anniversary Season, and is directed by the award-winning director, producer and casting director, Elina de Santos (“Seminar,” “All My Sons,” “Orphans”).

The show will have scheduled virtual performances from June 20 – July 18, 2021, and is presented in association with The Morgan-Wixson Theatre in Santa Monica.

Darrin Hickok and Jozben Barrett

“Sweat” is by no means a thinly dramatized op-ed piece. From first moments to last, this compassionate but clear-eyed play throbs with heartfelt life, with characters as complicated as any you’ll encounter from any theater, and with a nifty ticking time bomb of a plot.

Filled with warm humor and tremendous heart, Ms. Nottage’s Pulitzer prize-winning potboiler tells the story of a group of middle to lower middle-class friends who have spent their lives sharing drinks, secrets, and laughs while working together on the factory floor.

Dalia Vosylius and Estelle

But when layoffs and picket lines begin to chip away at their livelihoods and their trust, the friends find themselves pitted against each other in a tragically poignant fight to stay true to themselves and each other. Viewers may find themselves wincing and disquieted as they watch the forces of fate, or to be more specific, the mechanics of 21st-century American capitalism, bearing down on these characters with the brutal power of a jackhammer smashing through concrete.

Motivated by the North American Free Trade Agreement, employers are moving their plant to Mexico. The workers are terrified, not just because they’re going to be out of work, but because their jobs are their lives, a fundamental source of their personal identity. Without jobs, who are they — and what will they become? “This is my first time outta my house in one solid week,” one of them tells a friend. “Do you know what it’s like to get up and have no place to go? I ain’t had the feeling ever. I’m a worker. I have worked since I could count money. That’s me.”

Dalia Vosylius, Scott Sheldon, Rey Pulice, and Estelle

While its trajectory is dark, even devastating, “Sweat” is coevally witty too: Ms. Nottage knows well that the natural reactions to the assaults of life faced by these particular people are a savage sense of humor, and, more damagingly, a swan dive into the comforts of alcohol and drugs.

Originally opening on Broadway at Studio 54 in 2017, Chance Theater’s blazingly well-acted production stars Cary J. Thompson as Brucie, Dalia Vosylius as Tracey, Darrin Hickok as Jason, Elijah Rashad Reed as Chris, Jozben Barrett as Evan, Marlene Galán as Jessie, Rey Pulice as Oscar, Scott Sheldon as Stan, and Estelle as Cynthia. Marc Antonio Pritchett performs voiceovers.