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Sweat Offers Compelling Portrait of Pride and Survival at Cleveland Play House

Posted October 1, 2018 in Press Releases

CLEVELAND, OH (October 1st, 2018) Cleveland Play House (CPH) brings to life Lynn Nottage’s complex story of the Pulitzer Prize-winning Rust Belt drama Sweat. Set in Reading, PA, this relevant story offers audience members suspense through its intricate portrayal of characters battling to survive in a city crippled by economic stagnation. CPH Artistic Director Laura Kepley will direct. Previews begin on October 13th, with press opening on October 19th at the Outcalt Theatre in Playhouse Square. This production is sponsored by Great Lakes Brewing Company.

The American Dream has its back up against the wall. In Reading, PA, there’s talk of union lock-outs, massive lay-offs, and jobs going overseas. As rumors quickly become reality, a group of life-long friends gather at their local bar to joke and blow off steam while struggling to stand together as everything else falls apart. Inspired by true stories, Sweat is a compelling portrait of pride and survival in the Rust Belt.

Sweat was first performed at the Oregon Shakespeare Festival in 2015 before playing at the Arena Stage in Washington, D.C.. The play opened Off-Broadway at The Public Theater, before transferring to Broadway. Sweat received three 2017 Tony Award nominations: Best Play and Best Performance by an Actress in a Featured Role in a Play for both Johanna Day and Michelle Wilson.

Sweat is a gut punch of a play,” says CPH Artistic Director Laura Kepley. “Lynn Nottage crafts a story that humanizes the most pertinent issues of today - the loss of manufacturing jobs, the erosion of the middle class, race, and the opioid crisis- in a way that is immediate and deeply relatable to the audience. I am proud to be leading an extraordinary cast comprised of top local and national actors in telling this heart-wrenching story of grit, friendship and survival.”

“I want the audience, when they leave, to think of the characters on the stage in three dimensions,” said playwright Lynn Nottage to journalist Emma Brown in Interview Magazine. “I want them to have empathy. I also want them to think about engaging more with where we are culturally.”


JACK BERENHOLTZ (Jason) recently appeared in the off-Broadway workshop of Good Grief at the Vineyard Theatre, and in the world premiere of Scapino at the Gulfshore Playhouse in Florida. Other New York credits include Nightmare Dream (FringeNYC), Henry IV Pt. 1 (Extant Theatre), 3.31.93 (Lynn Redgrave Theater), Progeny (Riverside Theatre), and Antigone (Connelly Theatre). Other regional credits include Our Town, Henry V, Bedlam, and Engine of Our Ruin (Chautauqua Theater Company); Next Thing and Beyond Therapy (Williamstown Theatre Festival); and Twelfth Night, And Give Us the Shadows, and Ten Unknowns (The Schoolhouse Theater). Television credits include HBO’s The Deuce, and film credits include The Black Monk and Bandito, shown at the Tribeca, Cannes, Soho International, and Beverly Hills Film Festivals. He received an MFA from NYU Grad Acting, the recipient of the Ron Van Lieu Scholarship.

BROOKS BRANTLY (Chris) is a classically trained actor and a Morehouse College graduate. He received his MFA from the University of Connecticut and currently resides in Los Angeles. He is the first recipient of the Kenny Leon directing fellowship at the Alliance Theatre in Atlanta, GA. He was also a member of the Guthrie Experience program in Minneapolis, MN. Past credits include Warhorse (1st National Tour/North America/Japan), Significant Other (Broadway/Off-Broadway), FLY (Off-Broadway), Gleam, Superior Donuts, Othello, The Whipping Man, Hampton 10-10, 2017 ABC Talent Showcase & The Michael J. Fox Show. Brooks is excited to make his Cleveland Play House debut and is looking forwarding to being a part of the CPH family.

XAVIER CANO (Oscar) New York credits include the revival of Grease on Broadway (Sonny LaTierri), the revival of RENT at New World Stages, Michael John Lachiusa's Giant at the Public Theater, Paul Simon's The Capeman at the Delacorte in Central Park, Julianne Moore's Freckleface Strawberry also at New World Stages , and Lucky Guy at the Little Schubert. International credits include the 50th Anniversary tour of West Side Story (Chino) and favorite regional credits include the National Tour of If/Then starring Idina Menzel, Usnavi in In The Heights at Geva Theatre, Gabey in On The Town at the Finger Lakes Musical Theatre Festival, Paul in A Chorus Line at Broadway Sacramento, Ritchie Valens in Buddy Holly Story at Ogunquit Playhouse, Dick in Dames at Sea at the Bay Street Theatre, and Juan in Altar Boyz at Bristol Riverside. Xavier has studied at the William Esper Studio in NYC and is an alum of the University of Miami. ig: @iamxman website:

NEHASSAIU deGANNES (Cynthia) recently appeared off-Broadway in the Obie-Award winning world premiere of Is God Is by Aleshea Harris. Other New York credits include The Assembly's Seagullmachine at La Mama, Buran Theater's T.B. Sheets, Jitterbug at Dixon Place and Target Margin Labs at JACK, Abrons and Bushwick Starr. She has worked regionally at Florida Studio Theatre, Shakespeare & Co., Underground Railway Theatre, Luna Stage, WAM Theatre, Chicago Shakes, John Drew Theatre/Guild Hall, The McCarter, and Trinity Rep, to name a few, as well as internationally at The Stratford Festival of Canada, Driftwood Theatre, and Theatre Passe Muraille. She received a Berkshire Theatre Award for her portrayal of Nell Gwynne, Lady Davenant, and Maria in Liz Duffy Adams' Or, and a Wall Street Journal "2017 Best Of" Citation for her portrayal of Esther in Lynn Nottage's Intimate Apparel. Film credits include the upcoming Equal Standard.

ROBERT ELLIS (Stan) returns to Cleveland Play House where he has also appeared in Galileo, A Soldier’ Tale, A Carol For Cleveland, and The Little Foxes. Other Northeast Ohio credits include Peter and the Starcatcher; The Norwegians; and Circle, Mirror, Transformation (Dobama Theatre); Of Mice and Men and Dog Eat Dog (Ensemble Theatre); The Foreigner, Annie Get Your Gun, and The Art of Dining (Porthouse Theatre); and appearances at Cleveland Public Theatre, None Too Fragile, and The Beck Center. Regional credits include Oldcastle Theatre Company in Vermont and The Hippodrome State Theatre in Florida. A proud member of AEA and SAG-AFTRA, Bob has extensive commercial and film credits including; Proximity, Telling Lies in America, Dreaming on Christmas, Mad Town and the upcoming The Last Summer. Ellis is a founding member of Something Dada and Cabaret Dada Improvisational Theatre. For the last 23 years, he has been a Professor of Theatre and Speech at Cuyahoga Community College.

ROBERT BARRY FLEMING (Evan) Associate Artistic Director of Cleveland Play House, has a varied portfolio and a wealth of experience as an artistic leader/administrator, producer, director/choreographer, performing artist, teacher, and coach. Some of his professional acting credits include stints on Broadway in Ragtime directed by Frank Galati and Stand-up Tragedy directed by the late Ron Link, Off-Broadway in the lead role of Ron in Insurrection: Holding History by Robert O'Hara (The Public). Other projects include the world premiere of George C. Wolfe's Jelly’s Last Jam as Young Jelly (Mark Taper Forum). He has appeared on television in the Emmy-winning Disney Channel series Adventures in Wonderland, Family Matters, The George Carlin Show and film in the Oscar-winning L.A. Confidential and Twilight of the Golds.

NANCY LEMENAGER (Tracey) Lincoln Center: The World Premier of Sarah Ruhl’s How to Transcend a Happy Marriage. Broadway: Chicago, Twyla Tharp and Billy Joel’s Movin’ Out, Never Gonna Dance, Kiss Me Kate, Dream, How to succeed…, and Guys and Dolls.. Regionally: Sex with Strangers (Cincinnati Playhouse), What We’re Up Against by Theresa Rebeck (World Premier: The Alley), Other Desert Cities (Pioneer), Benediction (World Premier: Denver Center), God of Carnage (Emelin), Sense and Sensibility (Actors Theatre of Louisville), Romeo and Juliet (Virginia Stage), Smart Cookie (World Premiere: Alliance Theatre). Carnegie Hall Debut 2004: Skitch Henderson and the New York Pops. Film/TV: Oceans 8, The First Purge, Jessica Jones, Madame Secretary, Gypsy, Elementary, Girls, The Good Wife, Nurse Jackie, 30 Rock, Law and Order, Law & Order: Criminal Intent, and Law & Order: SVU. Adjunct professor at Pace University. Proud member of The Actors Center.

CHRIS SEIBERT (Jessie) is a Cleveland-based multidisciplinary collaborative artist. This year she premiered Reckoning with choreographer Kora Radella (Double Edge Dance), touring to Roulette (NY) this fall. She is currently developing her solo performance Fa(r)ther for touring in 2019. Chris originated and performed in the plays Insomnia and Ancestra at Cleveland Public Theatre with long-time collaborator actor/director Holly Holsinger. She has worked extensively with CPT, members of Cleveland Core Ensemble, and composer/director Raymond Bobgan, appearing in American Falls, Akarui, Osama the Hero, the multi­media solo performance Cut to Pieces created with Bobgan, and F*** Me Love Me Aphrodite created with Adam Seeholzer and Darius Stubbs. Chris’ work has garnered her recognition and support from the Ohio Arts Council, Chesterfield Writer’s Film Project (LA), Chicago C.A.A.P., and DirectorsLabChicago. In 2010, Chris was an inaugural recipient of the CAC Creative Workforce Fellowship, a program of the Community Partnership for Arts and Culture.

JIMMIE WOODY (Brucie) last appeared at CPH as Paul in 8. He most recently performed a workshop production of his one-man show Tale of a Geminirising at Cleveland Public Theatre. His local credits include Cholly in The Bluest Eye (Karamu House), Macbeth in Voodoo Macbeth (Ensemble Theatre), Julio in The Mother F***ker With The Hat (Dobama Theatre), William in Lobby Hero, and Booth in Top Dog/Underdog (The Beck Center for the Arts). Jimmie directed and performed the role of Dionysus in Cleveland Public Theatre’s production of The Bacchae of Euripides, translated by Wole Soyinka. His New York credits include Hollis in Hollis Mugley’s Only Wish (Joseph Papp Public Theater) directed by Robert Ohara, Pozzo in Waiting for Godot at The Oscar Hammerstein Theatre, The Spaniard in Cymbeline at New Shakespeare Festival, and Azdak in The Caucasian Chalk Circle (LaMama ETC), directed by Andrei Serban. Jimmie received his M.F.A. in acting from Columbia University.

Sweat Creative Team

LAURA KEPLEY (Director) became Artistic Director of Cleveland Play House in 2013 and has directed numerous CPH mainstage productions including The Diary of Anne Frank; Shakespeare in Love; The Crucible; Steel Magnolias; The Good Peaches (world premiere); Fairfield (world premiere); How I Learned to Drive (also at Syracuse Stage); The Little Foxes; Venus in Fur; Good People (also at Syracuse Stage); A Carol for Cleveland (world premiere); In the Next Room, or the vibrator play; My Name is Asher Lev and CPH readings of Roe Green Award-winning plays Tiny Houses; Soups, Stews and Casseroles: 1976; Marjorie Prime and Daphne’s Dive. She joined CPH in 2010, having arrived from Trinity Repertory Company in Providence, Rhode Island where she was Resident Director and Artistic Associate for four seasons and Interim Director of the Brown/Trinity Rep M.F.A. in Directing Program for one. She has also directed for The Alliance Theatre, Asolo Repertory Theatre, Chautauqua Theater Company, Cincinnati Playhouse in the Park, Contemporary American Theatre Festival, and The John F. Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts, among others. A native Ohioan, Laura received her undergraduate degree from Northwestern University and her Master of Fine Arts from Brown University/Trinity Rep. She is a Drama League Fellow and a recipient of the 2009-2011 National Endowment for the Arts/Theatre Communications Group Career Development Program for Directors.

The Design Team for Sweat includes: ROBERT MARK MORGAN (Scenic Designer) LEX LIANG (Costume Designer), ALAN C. EDWARDS (Lighting Designer), JANE SHAW (Sound Designer), THOM JONES (Vocal Coach), CHRISTINA TRAISTER (Fight Choreographer). The Production Stage Managers for this production are JOHN GODBOUT and MARYANN MORRIS, and the Assistant Stage Manager is TOM HUMES. Casting by Elissa Myers Casting, Paul Fouquet, CSA.

Ticket Information

Sweat will be performed in the Outcalt Theatre at Playhouse Square October 13th – November 4th, 2018. Tickets range in price from $25-$97 each, $12 rush tickets for currently enrolled students under age 25 with valid student ID, and Young Professional discounts available with YP-CPH Membership. To order single tickets please call 216-241-6000 or visit Groups of 10+ save up to 50% off single ticket prices; call 216-400-7027.

Subscriptions: Subscribers save up to 25%. Flexible season packages available. To purchase subscriptions or get more information, call 216-400-7096 or visit


CLEVELAND PLAY HOUSE, founded in 1915 and recipient of the 2015 Regional Theatre Tony Award, is America's first professional regional theatre. Throughout its rich history, CPH has remained dedicated to its mission to inspire, stimulate, and entertain diverse audiences across Northeast Ohio by producing plays and theatre education programs of the highest professional standards. CPH has produced more than 100 world and/or American premieres, and over its long history more than 12 million people have attended over 1,600 productions. Today, Cleveland Play House celebrates the beginning of its second century of service while performing in three state-of-the art venues at Playhouse Square in downtown Cleveland.

Cleveland Play House is made possible in part by state tax dollars allocated by the Ohio Legislature to the Ohio Arts Council (OAC). The OAC is a state agency that funds and supports quality arts experiences to strengthen Ohio communities culturally, educationally, and economically. Cleveland Play House is supported in part by the residents of Cuyahoga County through a public grant from Cuyahoga Arts & Culture.


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