Pike St. – Dublin Theatre Festival – Review
by Phoebe Moore
Until Oct 6th
A solo show is no easy thing. One actor to hold and to entertain an audience from lights up to finish is always a challenge. Certainly one of the joys of a ‘full bodied’, pun intended, play is the possibility as audience members to meet many different characters and observe, gleefully, their interactions. However, when all of this traffic and choreography is achieved by one actress embodying many, true artistry is at work. The appropriately named Nilaja Sun shines on stage as she seamlessly shifts from macho brother Mani back from army service to worried mother and sister Evelyn, to patriarchal and ageing ‘pops’ amongst others. All of these strong personalities belong to the same Latino family living in an unglamorous corner of New York’s Manhattan. A hurricane, we hear, is set to hit New York very soon setting an uncertain foreboding to the atmosphere of the piece.
The central point of this play is Evelyn’s daughter, she can’t talk and she can’t breathe, relying on her respirator and Sun’s nuanced physicality to bring her to life. Much as the daughter relies on her life saving device, we as an audience are also reliant on this particular plot point to hold a scattered and at times thin narrative together. This downfall sadly undercuts otherwise sharp humour and dialogue which in large brush strokes touches at themes of class, motherhood, masculinity and race: “Who isn’t emotionally abusive in NYC?” or “What about those Taliban hotties?” questions a male friend wanting the dirt from Mani’s recent service in Iraq. Nilaja Sun as performer and writer is not afraid to address big issues in refreshingly ‘un PC’ quips from well wrought characters. Sadly, these same issues are unlovingly hung out to dry, unresolved as the storm when the storyline hit an unsatisfying climax in Pike Street. Meanwhile, we are left to weather our very own ‘storm Lorenzo’ as house lights come up signalling conclusion and the flickering candles of the backdrop flicker and ebb.