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Pike Street review at Roundabout at Summerhall – ‘vivid one-woman show’

Nilaja Sun in Pike Street Nilaja Sun in Pike Street

In Nilaja Sun’s one-woman show, Pike Street, she brings a whole neighbourhood to life. She plays all the members of a New York Puerto Rican family, from daughter Candi, a bright teenager, disabled by a brain aneurysm, and now unable to talk or breathe without assistance, to her randy abuelo. She plays Candi’s gentle, stoic mother Evelyn and Evelyn’s brother, a Navy Seal, back from a war overseas and trying to live clean. She plays the elderly neighbour whose mind is failing and a host of other characters, hopping nimbly from role to role, filling the intimate Roundabout space with her performance.

While there are a few instances of confusion, where it’s hard to pin down exactly who she’s supposed to be, for the vast majority of the production she clearly delineates the characters, twisting her body into different shapes. In the process, Sun creates an intricate portrait of an immigrant Lower East Side community.

A hurricane is forecast and Evelyn is fretting about how to protect Candi if the power cuts out. She still believes her intelligent, ambitious daughter is present in Candi’s body. The build-up of tension as the storm approaches is well-handled even if the last few minutes of the piece, when the tone becomes more fantastical, feel a little out of keeping with what has gone before.

This kind of multi-role one-person show is a fringe staple, but Sun excels at the form, creating a whole community of characters.

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Vivid, dexterous and superbly performed one-woman multi-character piece about life on the Lower East Side