Sweat

Sweat

Sweat

The spray paint is on the wall: this old school manufacture is going away. Three generations worked at this Pennsylvania plant, and now it’s dying. The jobs were good while they lasted: we’re talking high pay, long hours union job that dominated the American heartland from the rise of Henry Ford until the collapse of the America Dream. Three women work the line, but one might make management even as they distrust their white-collar bosses who rarely see the manufacturing line. Strikes come, strikes go, but the plant continues, and the implicit implication is that it will always be there, and always pay a good wage. Clearly, these factory workers have not been reading the news. When the plant busts the union, families are torn apart and the down nearly demolished. Even the bar threatens to close.

On stage we see the stereotypes of the working class: the good old gals that act tough but need the money dominate, but then there are the young men debating a life of factory work that won’t last, or just hanging out and drinking beer, because what else is there. But some options appear, the ambitious Cynthia (Clark) jumps the corporate cage match and gets a white-collar job but loses her comrades on the line. And most sinister are the suits running the company. One weekend they sneak into their own plant and move half of it to Mexico. Concessions are demanded, or else the rest of the place goes even farther away.

While I can’t quite smell the stale beer, the bar set looks authentic and the people populating them actual working class. I was impressed with Jason (Ethan Rich). He bounces between good old boy and a neo-Nazi thug in training and he changes his fake tattoos three times in the show. Bartender Stan (Jeffery Allen Sneed) offers us the dark side of life in this factory town; he hurt his foot in an industrial accident and tends a rapidly shrinking bar. There also a fine set of performances between the union women and their de facto leader Tracey (Hubert), they see the fight as “Us vs. Them,) not realizing Them can find another Us anytime they want. Fake CNN news updates move us forward in time, but they jar as the Regan Revolution drives America straight into the George Bush II depression. We skate on similarly thin ice today, and slogans won’t change the fact that automation is here to stay and even if the factories remain, they need way fewer and better trained hands. These people were a bit more fortunate than those that went way before them, they got a few more years of paychecks.

theatre.ucf.edu

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