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John Earl Jelks

Sweat

April 3, 2017

"Sweat" is a classic, “well-made”--or carefully constructed--play, with a focus on the dwindling work for people in the middle of the country, prompting them to install Trump in the White House--to the ongoing dismay of the rest of the world. It couldn’t be more topical even as it helps us understand just exactly what’s been happening to bring us all to this sorry state. It was also based on Nottage’s extensive interviews with many actual residents of Reading, fueling the drama’s impact. [more]

Sweat

November 12, 2016

"Sweat," which won the 2016 Susan Smith Blackburn Prize, is reputed inspired by interviews conducted by playwright Nottage and director Kate Whoriskey in Reading, Pennsylvania, named the poorest city in America in 2011. By 2007, Reading had seen its factories and mills closing as NAFTA and globalization made it cheaper to produce goods in Mexico or China, without offering its residents anything but unemployment insurance. The play could probably have taken place in one of a dozen places in the Rust Belt. "Sweat"’s main characters are all eventually affected by this downward trend in a community that has few opportunities. [more]

Head of Passes

April 12, 2016

Tarell Alvin McCraney’s "Head of Passes" is an advance over his earlier work seen in New York ("The Brother/Sister Plays," "Wig Out," "Choir Boy") in its attempt to take on bigger themes and archetypes. In creating the role of Shelah, he has put on stage a magnificent role for an actress of tremendous gifts. Phylicia Rashad rises to Greek tragic heights required by Shelah’s plight. However, the meaning and message of the play remains obscure and tends to leave the audience outside of the play’s dramatic action. We watch mesmerized in horror as events unfold, but why they are happening and what is the underlying cause remains a mystery. [more]

Holler If Ya Hear Me

June 30, 2014

The original book by August Wilson protégé and collaborator Todd Kreidler is in the fiery style of his mentor. It's also in the old tradition of social problem plays and films. In addition, there are noticeable similarities to West Side Story. Though the plot and characters often seem familiar, Mr. Kreidler has very successfully crafted a framework that everyone else involved builds upon, resulting in a bold and novel take on the subject. [more]