“Sweat,” one of the most critically acclaimed plays of New York’s fall season, will open on Broadway this spring. The show, a timely chronicle of the lives of union factory workers in Reading, Pennsylvania in 2000, will mark the Broadway debut of Pulitzer Prize winning playwright Lynn Nottage.
Following productions at the Oregon Shakespeare Festival in 2015 and the Arena Stage in Washington, D.C. in early 2016, “Sweat” made its New York City debut at the Public Theater in a sold-out, limited engagement that recently concluded in December. Directed by frequent Nottage collaborator Kate Whoriskey, the ensemble cast included Tony nominees Johanna Day (“Proof”) and John Earl Jelks (“Radio Golf”) and stage and screen mainstays Michelle Wilson, Miriam Shor, and Will Pullen, amongst others. Although casting for the Broadway production has not yet been announced, the cast from the Public is expected to transfer with the show.
The play’s recent three-month engagement received near-universal acclaim from critics. Charles Isherwood (New York Times) hails the show as “scorching” and “[k]eenly observed and surprisingly funny,” praising Nottage as “writing at the peak of her powers” and commending the “superb” cast and direction. Similarly, Linda Winer (Newsday) applauds the “excellent cast,” “ace design team,” and Nottage’s ability to bare the “proud bones and broken hearts” of her subjects.
While Nottage has never been eligible for Tony Awards consideration, she has already amassed an impressive number of accolades. In addition to receiving the prestigious MacArthur Fellowship and two PEN/Laura Pels Awards (one in 2004 for a playwright in mid-career and the other in 2016 as their “Master American Dramatist”) for her collective body of work, many of Nottage’s plays have won Off-Broadway trophies. “Intimate Apparel,” a Roundabout Theatre Company production starring Viola Davis, earned the 2004 Drama Critics Award for Best Play, the Outer Critics Circle Award for Best Off-Broadway Play, and a Drama Desk Award for Davis.
“Ruined,” considered Nottage’s magnum opus, not only received the 2009 Pulitzer Prize for Drama, but also won the Drama Desk Award for Outstanding Play and the Outer Critics Circle Award for Best Off-Broadway Play. For “Sweat,” Nottage has already received the 2016 Susan Smith Blackburn Prize, which for nearly four decades has been celebrating the work of women dramatists.
With such an impressive pedigree, will Tony Award voters be able to resist awarding Nottage with a Tony for Best Play for “Sweat”? Share your thoughts in our forums!