Pike St.: Nilaja Sun delivers an exquisite performance

Pillsbury House Theatre, through June 18

Nilaja Sun in Pike St. Photo by George Byron Griffiths

Pike St. (Pillsbury House Theatre) is a one woman show, written and performed by über-talented New Yorker Nilaja Sun.

Pike St. evinces many of the problems inherent in one person performances. It lacks muscle (true drama requires, imho, the interaction of two or more people). It is often a confused and confusing jumble of characters. Who is she playing now? When did he show up? There is a distressing similarity to many of the denizens of New York’s Lower East Side (La Loisaida) that Sun creates.

There. Got the criticism out of the way. Feel free to ignore it. And you should, because Pike St. is a marvel, and for one simple reason: Sun. Sun soars. Sun attacks her material with passion and electrifying power. Wanna see some first rate acting? Go to Pike St. You’ll thank me.

Sun makes lightning-fast transitions between the characters she plays. She displays endless creativity. Astonishing energy. She is compulsively watchable (and she’d better be, this being a one person performance). Her face is breath-takingly malleable. Her physicality thrills. She takes us on a marvelous ride and we don’t want it to end.

Kudos to director Ron Russell for shaping this excellent show.

Pike St. tells a terrific story: Hurricane Delores is bearing down on NYC and Sun plays the (mostly, but not entirely) Puerto Rican residents of an apartment building in the shadow of the Manhattan Bridge and its Loisaida neighborhood as they prepare for the inundation. We get the nosy semi-senile Jewish neighbor (“Welcome to America!” “Thanks, but I was born here.”), the louche father, the damaged brother returning from Afghanistan.

At the center of all this we find the poised Evelyn and her daughter, Candy (Sun pronounces Candy’s name Spanish style, “Cahndee”). Candy has had a brain aneurysm which has rendered her incapable of breathing, seeing, moving, or speaking on her own. Her kidneys don’t function. Her disability is permanent.

And this is as far as I’m prepared to go. Pike St. has some amazing, and affecting, plot twists which I will, virtuously, refrain from recounting.

See the play.

John Olive is a writer living in Minneapolis. His book, Tell Me A Story In The Dark, about the magic of bedtime stories, has been published. Please visit his informational website.


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