SYNOPSIS: Winner of the 2017 Pulitzer Prize for Drama, Sweat looks at the interconnected lives of nine people—friends and co-workers at a manufacturing plant in Reading, Pennsylvania at the turn of the twenty-first century. The nine characters appear to have overcome their racial and ethnic diversity to work together and become close friends, but when the plant ownership takes a hard line in union negotiations, fissures open up between the nine. When a manager job becomes available and best friends Tracy and Cynthia both apply for it, tensions flare as people who have come to depend on the plant for their livelihood start to feel threatened by “outsiders,” some of whom they’ve known for years.
LANGUAGE: The characters in Sweat are blue-collar workers living in a rust-belt town, and they employ the habitual use of conversational strong language in their day-to-day talk. There is therefore a considerable amount of very strong language in the play, enough to qualify the play for an “R” rating. Specifically, this language includes the frequent use of the word “fuck/fucking” (as an adjective), along with uses of “shit,” bullshit,” “bitch,” “Jesus,” “Goddamn,” “titties,” “prick,” “bastards,” “nigga,” and “asshole.”
SMOKING/DRINKING: A number of scenes take place in bar, where alcohol is consumed in quantity. There will also be depictions of smoking and drug use (the latter mostly referred to).
VIOLENCE: In the climactic scene, violence erupts, with tragic consequences for the characters.
FOR WHICH AUDIENCES? Sweat is a highly praised and multi-award winning play that looks at many of the major issues confronting America in the twenty-first century—race, work, the loss of blue collar jobs and the struggle of the middle class—but its habitual strong language will be discomfiting to conservative audience members. As a play about social issues in America, it would be very engrossing to student audiences, but teenagers should only attend at a parent’s discretion, and the play is unsuitable for pre-teens.
RATING: If it were a movie, Sweat would be rated “R” for language.