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TRAVEL & ENTERTAINMENT: Solo Performance "Pike Street" Playing at Berkeley Rep - One Woman Speaks for All!

Nov 30, 2018
by Renata Polt
The stage is bare except for several shelves filled with large candles, and a straight chair in which a woman sits in the tight, twisted position of a badly handicapped child.

The woman is Nilaja Sun, author and solo performer in “Pike St.,” currently playing at Berkeley Repertory Theater. Sun plays multiple roles—this is a short, one-person play—from Evelyn, mother of the child, resident of an apartment in New York's Lower East Side; to Mrs. Applebaum, an old Jewish lady who lives downstairs; Evelyn's brother Manny, recently returned from war; her father, drinker and womanizer; and a few others. The family are Puerto Rican; some of the dialogue is in Spanish.

Nothing much happens in “Pike Street” (directed by Ron Russell); what the show does is to reveal the situation and character of Evelyn, her family, her neighbor, and—by extension—her society. We soon understand the situation: Evelyn's daughter, age 16, has suffered a devastating brain injury and has been unable to talk, walk, or perform other everyday functions for years. Her life depends on a dialysis machine and a respirator. There's a hurricane (Hurrican Sandy) coming in, but neither Evelyn and her daughter, nor Mrs. Applebaum, are able to get to a shelter. The father and brother are no help.

With only her body and her voice, Sun—who last performed at Berkeley Rep in “No Child...”--brings the many characters to life. She's a remarkably physical and talented actor, able to represent an air guitar-playing veteran with emotional problems, a grandmother with psychic talents (maybe), an elderly Holocaust survivor, a prostitute, and others. The show's lighting (by Tyler Micoleau) and costume (just a blue shirt and a pair of red jeans—by Clint Ramos) are appropriate.

What I missed was more development, and some resolution to the family dynamic which is only hinted at. As it is, though, it's hard to imagine the hyper-kinetic Nilaja Sun lasting for another half hour or so at the pace that she sets.

“Pike St.” plays at Berkeley Rep through December 16th. For tickets and further information, visit berkeleyrep.org, or phone (510) 647-2949. Special ticket prices are available for groups and for members of the armed services.

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Photo caption: Award-winning writer/performer Nilaja Sun. (Photo by Teresa Castracane)


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