by Lynn Nottage

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Act 1, Scenes 3–5

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Scene 3

It is February 10, 2000. Reports of Steve Forbes and his discontinued bid to secure the Republication nomination for president are in the national news, alongside updates in the local news regarding the building of the Downtown Civic Convention Center in Reading.

Chris and Jason, both twenty-one, eight years younger than they are at the start of the play, are drinking at the same bar as before while Oscar works quietly. The two friends discuss a motorcycle Jason hopes to buy when he has enough money, and Jason complains about his inadequate pay, which is lower than he likes after he pays union dues. Chris chimes in with his own money woes, and he mentions his goal of saving money for college, which takes Jason by surprise. In September, Chris explains, he plans to begin training to be a teacher at the local college in Reading. 

Jason mocks Chris’s future career as a history teacher at Reading High School and warns Chris that teaching jobs do not pay well. Stan, the bartender, agrees with Jason, suggesting to Chris that he keep his job at Olstead’s steel-tubing plant because he won’t “find better money out there.” Chris accepts the warnings, but he insists that he wants to “do something a little different than my moms and pops.” Jason makes a belittling joke at Chris’s expense, which causes Chris to drop his diplomatic tone. The two friends argue about the work conditions at the factory, and Jason reveals the real cause of his frustration with Chris when he exclaims, “We’re a team, you can’t leave!”

Scene 4

It is March 2, 2000. National news reports about the Republican presidential debate compete with local news updates about a house fire that “leaves a mother with five children homeless” and a new brass hardware factory soon to open in nearby Leesport, Pennsylvania.

Brucie, a black man in his forties, sits alone at the bar with his drink as the television blares in the background. As Oscar works behind the bar, Stan and Brucie discuss the Republican candidates debating on television before Stan turns it off. Brucie gossips with Stan about the strike at the textile mill where Brucie works, complaining about the temporary workers and describing his hope for a new contract. As Brucie laments his situation, Stan commiserates, remembering his own career at Olstead’s plant and claiming that “getting injured was the best thing that ever happened to [him].” Stan is still bitter about the disregard he experienced after his injury, especially because he had worked there twenty-eight years. Brucie is too upset to listen to Stan, and he tells Stan about a conflict he had at the union office: a white man blamed Brucie for taking the his job. Brucie curses the “blame game,” remarking, “I got enough of that in my marriage.” As he says this, his wife, Cynthia, and her friends Tracey and Jessie walk into the bar and order drinks from Stan. Brucie tries to engage Cynthia, who resists his attention, as the three women sit down at a table. 

Brucie becomes frustrated and slams the table while Tracey and Jessie support Cynthia in her refusal to respond to Brucie. Brucie persists until Cynthia gives in, asking Brucie about her fish before striding toward him. Brucie takes Cynthia’s hand as Tracey accuses Brucie of being disrespectful to women. With a drink sitting next to him on the bar, Brucie tells Cynthia he is in “a program.” Cynthia asks Brucie if he has been in touch with his son, Chris, who has recently been accepted to Albright College’s...

(This entire section contains 1001 words.)

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teaching program. Brucie wants to know who is responsible for Chris’s school fees. As Cynthia tries to persuade Brucie to feel proud of Chris for his accomplishments, Tracey interrupts their exchange to agree with Cynthia.

Brucie and Cynthia talk about their lives, and Cynthia mentions her application for a promotion at work and her competition for the position. Brucie’s reaction is sardonic, and he jokes, “[the bosses] must be hard up if they’re considering you guys.” Cynthia’s good will toward Brucie evaporates, and when she walks away, Brucie tries to apologize to her for “what went down in December.” Cynthia lets Brucie kiss her, but Tracey interferes, telling Brucie to “get clean or get lost.” Brucie becomes emotional when Stan interjects, and Cynthia rejects Brucie’s final attempt to get her attention.

Scene 5

It is April 17, 2000. Reports of “the tech bubble burst[ing]” and protests in Washington, DC, against the World Bank and the International Monetary Fund are on the national news, while the local news reports the shooting of a young man who was “leaving a bar” in Reading.

Outside the bar, Tracey smokes a cigarette. Oscar is outside on his break, and he asks Tracey for a smoke. Tracey refuses, and her tone with Oscar is rude and dismissive; eventually, she relents and gives Oscar a cigarette. Oscar asks Tracey about her work at Olstead’s steel-tubing plant, explaining that a job announcement at the Centro Hispano indicates that Olstead’s is hiring. Tracey protests, insisting, “you gotta be in the union” to work at Olstead’s—but the flyer that Oscar produces makes no such requirement.

Oscar changes the subject, observing that Tracey’s friends are “getting pretty lit in there,” and Tracey explains that Cynthia is celebrating her promotion. Her tone is biting and jealous, and she vents to Oscar about her own struggles at work. He is sympathetic until Tracey begins to attack him personally, assuming that he is an immigrant from a Spanish-speaking country who “can get a job faster” than she can; Oscar tells Tracey that he was born in Berks County, Pennsylvania, but instead of responding to Oscar, she rants about her grandfather’s success as a builder and his pride in his work. Oscar asks Tracey if she is all right, and she responds by telling him, “Olstead’s isn’t for you.”


Act 1, Scenes 1–2


Act 1, Scenes 6–7