In 2017, Hartford Stage offered one of the best solo shows in recent memory with James Lecesne and his brilliant one-man play, “The Absolute Brightness of Leonard Pelkey”. The theatre is currently offering another astonishing solo show by playwright/actress Nilaja Sun in “Pike St.” This is something truly special.
Like “Leonard Pelkey”, Nilaja Sun based much of “Pike St.” on her own experiences living on the Lower East Side of New York City and of her recent memories about the disastrous Hurricane Sandy. Exploring the lives of the underserved in the direct path of Sandy in “Pike St.”, Sun plays a single mom living in a modest apartment with her randy father and paraplegic daughter. Also populating Sun’s enthralling story is her brother, who just returned from Afghanistan and is showing signs of PTSD, the elderly Jewish woman living downstairs and her father’s aggressive girlfriend.
Depicting these various characters and more in just under 80 minutes without intermission, Sun is never less than mesmerizing making authentic physical and vocal changes with split second timing. Her talent can be witnessed early on prior to curtain when Sun Is seated center stage as the audience enters. Watch as her face contorts and her arms and legs start to curl as she slowly exhibits that damaged body of her disabled daughter. She is fascinating to watch.
Director Ron Russell has worked beautifully in tandem with his star and is also responsible for the award-worthy sound design which includes the terrifying sound of a hurricane as it bears down on the city. The spare but effective scenic design by Mikiko Suzuki Macadams is dramatically lit by designer Tyler Micoleau. As writer, Sun obviously knows these characters very well even as some threads don’t quite pay off. This includes her brother’s many mental issues that are introduced in a long, sad section of the piece but tend to be wrapped up superficially and too conveniently before the storm hits.
Still, there is no doubt about the talent currently on stage in “Pike St.” Ms. Sun is simply a revelation.
“Pike St.” continues at Hartford Stage through February 2. For ticket reservations or further information call: 860.527.5151 or visit: www.hartfordstage.org.
Tom Holehan is one of the founders of the Connecticut Critics Circle, a frequent contributor and resident critic of WPKN Radio’s “State of the Arts” program and Artistic Director of Stratford’s Square One Theatre Company. He welcomes comments at: firstname.lastname@example.org. His reviews and other theatre information can be found on the Connecticut Critics Circle website: www.ctcritics.org.