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Review: SWEAT at Iowa Stage: A Story that was going to be told in 2020, is just as timely two and a half years later.

Review: SWEAT at Iowa Stage: A Story that was going to be told in 2020, is just as timely two and a half years later.

Iowa Stage brings this powerful Pulitzer Prize Winning play to Des Moines through September 25.

Before the Pandemic, one of the shows I was looking forward to seeing was Iowa Stage's production of "Sweat" by Lynn Nottage. At that time, the excitement for me was being able to see a Pulitzer Prize-winning play. I didn't realize how powerful and impactful the play would be for me. I didn't realize how I would see my family members on stage in words being said by each of the characters. While the play was delayed multiple times due to Covid, it couldn't be more timely today.

The play starts with two young men named Jason and Chris, talking separately with what seemed to me to be their parole officer. From the beginning, you see that these two men have a history together, but you don't know how their stories are intertwined and what led to them being in their situation. We are soon introduced to their mothers, who are friends who work at a local factory. Things seem to be going well until the factory lays off its workers unless they are willing to take a pay cut. As the play continues, we see the stresses all the characters face as they start picketing. What leads to the inciting incident and the conversations it leads to is something many Iowans will be able to relate to.

While most of the show is in a bar, a few scenes occur outside the bar. Director Matthew McIver does an excellent job of finding interesting ways to take the audience outside the bar. Sometimes it comes to something as simple as moving the tables, and other times, it's finding an open space. This all comes to life on the gorgeous set designed by Kiah Kayser, whose set will have the audience wanting to walk onstage to get a drink from the working bar. These elements, Susanna Douthit's costumes, Dakota Sommer's lighting, and Brandon Kair's sound, come together to bring this beautiful story to the stage.

What brings this show to life and makes it such an emotional and relatable show are the actors' performances on stage. One of the challenges this show brings is that some actors are at very different stages of their lives at times. While the time frame of the events may have only been eight years, the actors go through some significant changes on stage. One of the biggest changes we see is with Tom Geraty as Stan. Throughout the play, we see him as the bartender everyone is willing to open up to. After the incident hinted at the top of the play, he comes back on at the show's close with his character only recognizable by name.

At the center of the show are two duos. The first are friends Chris and Jason, played by David Robinson and Alex Wendel. Des Moines audiences most recently saw both in Iowa Stage's summer production of King Lear. Each does an excellent job of bringing these younger characters to the stage as their careers are taken away just as they are getting started with their adult lives. The friendship they show onstage is crucial to the show, as their friendship is what sells the incident that happens at the end of the show.

The other friends at the show's center are Tracey, Cynthia, and Jessie, played by Alissa Tschetter-Siedschlaw, Davida Williams, and Jennifer Hughes. While we see the men's friendships grow, these women's friendships fall apart throughout the play. It's through each of these women we get the heart of the play and where I saw my relatives who had worked in local factories and had been on picket lines. The show also features fantastic performances from Jerry Brantley, Ed Vasquez, and Aaron Smith.

I can't remember the last time I saw a play and was so moved by it that I had to call my family. The emotions elicited from this production make this one of the most powerful productions I've seen. This is accomplished through the fantastic cast, direction, and designs. If you have worked in or had family members who have worked in one of Iowa's factories and have been faced with having to picket outside their jobs, I highly recommend attending this powerful production. Iowa Stage Theatre Company's production of "Sweat" plays its limited engagement through September 25.

From This Author - DC Felton

David Felton has been involved in theatre since his middle school production of The Wizard of Oz. Throughout high school he stayed onstage, and once he got to college he started exploring thebackst... (read more about this author)

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