In August 2017, I saw and reviewed Nilaja Sun’s solo performance of “Pike Street” at the Edinburgh Fringe Festival. At that time, I contacted several Bay Area companies and suggested they consider bringing her and her compelling story to our local audiences. While I unfortunately am unable to attend the Berkeley Repertory appearance of “Pike Street,” I am happy to re-share my review from that performance of this same show and thus to encourage my readers to attend the Berkeley Repertory show.
Here is my earlier review of “Pike Street.”
Barrow Street Theatre Production
A hurricane is fast approaching New York, and a household in the Lower East Side is busy preparing to ride it out even as the family awaits the return of a Navy Seal son and brother who has been awarded a medal for his bravery in Afghanistan. The Puerto Rican family refuses to go to a shelter because of Evelyn’s fifteen-year-old daughter who is severely brain damaged and cannot breath without help of a machine (not eat or speak on her own). To ensure Candice’s dialysis machine will continue to work, Evelyn has brought a generator into their fifth-floor, walk-up flat but has not had time yet to read the instructions for its operation. Besides preparing for her brother’s welcome, she is trying to appease her alcoholic father who only wants to play the numbers before the storm arrives. She also wants to make sure the elderly Jewish woman below them who is having memory issues has what she needs before the storm hits.
The most remarkable part of the story being told in Pike Street is that all these and more residents of the ethnically rich neighborhood are all played by the piece’s author, Nilaja Sun. We first see the mouthpiece of this one-person show sitting with a body grossly distorted — head slanted precariously upward, mouth severely askew, and both hands and legs knotted in ways that make one cringe to see. This is our introduction to Candice, and the performer will remind us from time to time how the 15-year-old is reacting to the people and events around her. For all the other characters, Ms. Sun employs an incredibly impressive range of voices, accents, body positions, and ways of walking to bring each of the people to life.
As the thunder begins to rumble and the rains and winds pick up in intensity, the story inside the house also intensifies as emotions become raw not from the storm, but from histories leaving scars that get rubbed raw by memories jarred, challenges made, and stories retold. Before the eye of the passing hurricane hits, an unexpected storm explodes within the household; and our final image of a young, invalid girl of fifteen takes on new significance given what this family has been through in deciding to ride out the storm.
Rating: 5 E
Pike Street continues through December 16, 2018 at
on the Roda Theatre stage of Berkeley Repertory Theatre, 2015 Addison Street, Berkeley, CA. Tickets are available at http://www.berkeleyrep.org/boxoffice/index.asp or by calling 510-647-2975 Tuesday – Sunday, noon – 7 p.m.
Photo by Teresa Castracane
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