Act 1, Scenes 1–2

Download PDF Print Page Citation Share Link

Last Reviewed on March 2, 2020, by eNotes Editorial. Word Count: 1322

Scene 1

It is September 29, 2008. Reports of the “largest single-day decline in stock market history” dominate the news, but the residents of Reading, Pennsylvania, carry on their daily lives, enjoying samples of apple cider at the Annual Fall Festival.

Illustration of PDF document

Download Sweat Study Guide

Subscribe Now

Onstage, two men sit in a parole office in Reading. The parolee, Jason, is a white twenty-nine-year-old man; he has tattoos on his face that reveal that he is a white supremacist, as well as a black eye and a very short haircut. Evan, his parole officer, is a black middle-aged man, and he is “comfortably puffy.”

Evan questions Jason about his employment status and his place of residence, and Jason responds in monosyllables. When Jason explains that he is working as a soft pretzel baker and that he has a bed at a local shelter, Evan tries to be positive about these signs of progress, but Jason complains that the other residents are thieves. After a brief pause in conversation, Evan asks Jason to explain his black eye—a request that makes Jason defensive and uncomfortable. Jason’s disrespectful tone invites Evan to make his authority over Jason clear, and Evan mildly threatens to “make things very difficult” if Jason doesn’t cooperate.

Finally, Jason reveals that he was at Loco’s, a bar, and that while he was going to the bathroom, he was punched in the eye by a very large man who believed Jason was looking at his girlfriend. Evan asks Jason a difficult question: if Jason were to take a drug test, what might the test reveal? As Jason protests, claiming his innocence, Evan insists Jason pick up a nearby cup for a urine sample, enraging Jason. After a pause, Jason acknowledges that there is something on his mind. As Evan pushes him to explain himself, Jason asks Evan to “ease up,” but Evan reminds Jason that prison time awaits him should he be in any kind of trouble. Evan also tells Jason that the tattoos on his face are likely to cause him difficulty now that he is no longer in prison. Evan reveals that the tattoos make him “wanna punch [Jason] out”; nevertheless, he is “here to help.”

Eventually, Jason tells Evan that he had an unexpected encounter with Chris—an admission that makes Jason emotional. As Evan questions Jason about what happened, Jason struggles to explain himself, claiming that while in prison, he tried to deny his history with Chris.

At this moment, Evan turns around onstage. Now, he is facing Chris, a twenty-nine-year-old black man in tidy clothing. Evan asks Chris why he seems so nervous, and Chris explains that he hasn’t been sleeping well as he adjusts to life outside of prison. Chris tells Evan that he has a bed in the rectory of a local church thanks to a man named Reverend Duckett. Chris is applying for jobs, but the wages are low, and his prison record makes him unattractive to employers. Evan and Chris discuss other topics like prayer meetings and finishing college, but Chris is suddenly distracted. He tells Evan that he has recently seen Jason and his face tattoos; to Chris, Jason looked as if he had aged, which Chris finds upsetting. Chris’s description of this encounter with Jason is detailed: just outside a shop in Reading called Sneaker Villa, the two men saw each other. Chris rushed toward Jason, thinking Jason might try to avoid him. Suddenly, the two men were embracing.

Scene 2

It is January 18, 2000. Reports of the booming stock market make national news because it is “widening the income gap between the poorest and richest US families.” In Reading, Pennsylvania, a local ordinance concerning the ownership of aggressive dogs like pit bulls has been passed.

Onstage, three women are at a bar. Cynthia and Tracey dance drunkenly while their friend Jessie is slumped over at a table. Cynthia is black and forty-five years old, Tracey is the same age and white,...

(The entire section contains 1322 words.)

Unlock This Study Guide Now

Start your 48-hour free trial to unlock this Sweat study guide. You'll get access to all of the Sweat content, as well as access to more than 30,000 additional guides and more than 350,000 Homework Help questions answered by our experts.

  • Summary
  • Chapter Summaries
  • Themes
  • Characters
  • Analysis
  • Quotes
Start your 48-Hour Free Trial

Act 1, Scenes 3–5