Sweat on Broadway and Lettice & Lovage at Westport Playhouse

 “Welcome to Katz Reviews. This is Ed Katz of Katnip Marketing- marketing consultant by day; theater critic by night- bringing my weekly review segment, Katz Reviews, here for you on WICC 600.

With Broadway’s Tony Awards this Sunday, today’s first review is Best Play nominee, ‘Sweat,’ which won the Pulitzer Prize. It’s a powerful vision of the implosion of the American Dream in Factorytown, USA.

Focusing on a group of increasingly disgruntled Pennsylvania factory workers between 2000-2008, ‘Sweat’ brings to bear matters of prejudice, labor vs. management, crossing a union picket line and friends and family. Example: a woman newly promoted to factory manager has to enforce an employee lock out- which includes her friends and her own son; the son who needs the factory job to pay college tuition costs as he tries to be the first in his African-American family to attend college.

But, as we know, factories have been moving out of the U.S. and this town’s large factory just moved several machines to Mexico and demanded workers accept a large pay cut.

But the workers vote against it and hit the picket line, raising tensions.

What playwright Lynn Nottage and director Kate Whoriskey show are the devastating effects on everyone, along with several assertions that the politicians have no clue to the reality of their daily struggles.

   photo by Joan Marcus

The entire cast is solid but Michelle Wilson and Khris Davis stand out as a mother and son who try to do the right thing but get caught under the wheels of industrial progress, as does the excellent Johanna Day, who spares no one the bitterness she is feeling.

Though it is painful to bear witness to this bleak story, it is remarkably effective in conveying the hopeless, desperate situation of all involved and I give ‘Sweat’ 4-and-a-half stars out of 5. It’s a worthy nominee for Best Play- and we’ll see which shows win this Sunday night!

 Locally, Westport Country Playhouse has ‘Lettice and Lovage,’ ably directed by Mark Lamos. Writer Peter Shaffer’s 1987 play followed his successes with ‘Equus’ and ‘Amadeus.’

Though this is lighter fare it still proves a charming comedy with a terrific, endearing performance by lead Kandis Chappell as embellishing British tour guide Lettice Douffet paired with her enemy boss-turned-friend compellingly played by Mia Dillon. That the two manage to have such great chemistry is a remarkable feat as Chappell had to take the role on short notice when original lead Patricia Connolly had an illness.

Paxton Whitehead reprises his role from the original Broadway production as an attorney and is spot on, as is Sarah Manton who adds some laughs in too small a supporting role.

 photo by Carol Rosegg; (l to r) Paxton Whitehead, Mia Dillon, Kandis Chappell

Lettice claims her motto is “Enlarge! Enliven! Enlighten!”- and she largely does. I’d add “Enjoy” and I give ‘Lettice and Lovage’ 4 stars out of 5. It runs through June 17th.

Catch my reviews right here this time each week and on my Facebook page and website, Katz Reviews dot com.

This is Ed Katz talking theater for WICC 600!”