BWW Review: PIKE ST. at Hartford Stage
Communities are beautiful things due in part to the vast diversity that can exist in them. Even if made up of people of common means, there are so many layers to each neighborhood, each block, and each building. Some of these people are friends, some one hardly ever sees, but many are, or can feel like, family. These community bonds often are tested the most during a crisis, and sometimes it is that crucible which strengthens relationships and changes lives. Bonds such as I have described here are portrayed vividly by Nijala Sun in her one woman show, PIKE ST. which is now playing at Hartford Stage.
PIKE ST. is a beautifully complex and touching play that is brought to life through the mind and performance of Nijala Sun. Ms. Sun tells the story of a family on the Lower East Side of Manhattan on an eventful day as the city prepares for Hurricane Delores. She embodies the main character, Evelyn, a Puerto Rican mother who lives in a small apartment with her philandering "Papi" and her severely disabled daughter, Candi. Evelyn is studying healing, a trade that her mother held until her death, and energetically interjects some of her techniques throughout the evening (including to start the play). Other characters come in and out of the scene - Mrs. Appelbaum, Evelyn's Jewish neighbor, her brother Manny, recently home from the war and struggling with his own PTSD, Manny's Asian-American friend Ty, and the Yemeni store clerk on the corner. For each of these people, Ms. Sun has unique mannerisms, voices and inflections, and is so effective you forget that it is just one woman on stage the entire 80 minutes of the play.
Ms. Sun's performance in PIKE ST. is another in the long line of solo performances on the stage at Hartford Stage. As with many of those other plays, I was astounded at how quickly and effectively she could switch from one person to another, never missing a beat and having full-fledged conversations, sometimes among 3 - 4 people at a time. Her embodiment of young Candi, speechless, and without sight or hearing, is tender and joyful, and extremely effective. Overall, she gives a master class in character acting and tells a touching, funny and thoroughly enjoyable and relatable story.
Ron Russell's direction of Ms. Sun is very strong, helping deliver the urgency and energy of the setting. Mikiko Suzuki McAdams' scenic design is simple, yet effective, and Sound and Lighting (by Ron Russell and Tyler Micoleau) add nice touches to paint the scenes.
Overall, PIKE ST. is a thrill to watch, not only to see Ms. Sun perform theatrical acrobatics, but to get to know (and care for) the people she brings to life on stage. Her story is one of family, community and the challenges of life - physical, emotional, and spiritual and the enduring power of caring for others.
PIKE ST. runs at Hartford Stage in Hartford, CT January 9 - February 2. Hartford Stage is located at 50 Church Street, Hartford, CT 06103. Performances are Tuesday, Wednesday, Thursday, and Sunday at 7:30 p.m., Friday and Saturday at 8:00 p.m., and Saturday and Sunday at 2:00 p.m. Weekly schedules vary. For tickets or for more information call 860-527-5151 or visit www.hartfordstage.org.
All Photos: Nilaja Sun
Photo Credit: T. Charles Erickson