There might be more than half a dozen characters featuring in Pike St., but there’s only one actor. If you’re at all concerned about this character-to-performer ratio, here’s some advice for you: don’t be. Inside the futuristic Roundabout venue, Nilaja Sun reveals herself to be among the most versatile actors gracing the stage at this year’s Fringe. Somehow, through voice and body language alone, she manages to transform herself into an entire community of people.
In a Lower East Side apartment, Evelyn – a Puerto Rican woman practising energy healing – lives with her father and her fifteen-year-old daughter Candi, who is unable to walk and talk due to an undisclosed medical problem. As they prepare for a severe storm to hit, the family have numerous interactions with other residents in their neighbourhood. We become acquainted with, for example, an elderly Jewish lady who seems to be suffering from dementia; a wily neighbour that Evelyn’s father has taken a fancy to; and Evelyn’s brother, a decorated soldier who has recently returned to the United States.
Even in the absence of props and costumes, Sun is able to flit from character to character with impossible ease. Her spot-on accents and ever-shifting demeanour allows her to bring these characters to life in front of our very eyes. The acting cannot be praised highly enough – Sun is so convincing as to make you forget she’s alone on the stage.
The show’s run time is also sufficient enough to see Sun exploring several socio-political issues with an unbridled energy. The script is action-packed and relentlessly engaging, with absolutely no lulls. It’s true that the writing isn’t totally immune to criticism; it can certainly be argued that some character portrayals rely a little too heavily on tropes and stereotypes. This flaw aside, Pike St. is a show that really packs an emotional punch. There’s hope, fear, grief and shock aplenty – and it all comes together to form a terrifically acted performance that seems to remark on the importance of families and communities.
Words: Morgan Laing
Pike St., Roundabout @ Summerhall, Aug 18-27 (not 22), 3pm