'Sweat' Has Too Much Research And Not Enough Feeling
Explanation is the prime aesthetic concern of Lynn Nottage’s 2017 Pulitzer-prize winning Sweat. The playwright tells us, rather than trusting that we can intuit and feel our way through the material. Everything feels controlled, deliberate, and perfunctory. We know that Nottage has done a great deal of research, gone to Reading and talked to a lot of people—the program and countless articles tell us so with a kind of awe and reverence. But I would say to what end.
There’s no real philosophy here, there’s no real ideas, there isn’t even anger. People in the play get angry, but the play itself is curiously distant. Everything is meticulously explained, rather than alive with human imagination, and some of the lines, especially the speeches, seem culled from interviews rather than how people actually talk to lifelong friends.