Arts Beat

Nilaja Sun in Pike Street at Hartford Stage. (Photo by T. Charles Erickson)

by Mark G. Auerbach

Review: Pike Street at Hartford Stage

Hartford Stage has always championed the art of solo performance, where storytelling is front and center. I’ve seen some great work there by artists James Lecesne (The Absolute Brightness of Leonard Pelkey), Mona Golabek (The Pianist of Willesden Lane), and Hershey Felder (George Gershwin Alone). Nilaja Sun follows in that tradition in her play, Pike Street, in which she plays a host of characters in a New York Lower East Side Puerto Rican family’s tenement, as they prepare to ride out an approaching hurricane. There’s a single mom, her incapacitated teenage daughter, her father, her war hero brother, the customer assistance operator at Con Ed, her dad’s girlfriend, a Holocaust survivor and more. Sun’s play is nicely directed by Ron Russell, on an interesting set by Mikiko Suzuki MacAdams. With superb lighting by Tyler Micoleau. and sound design by the director, Pike Street has some compelling moments during its 75 minutes.

Nilaja Sun is onstage warming up as the house opens, and she gets the audience’s attention from the get-go, with some audience participation clapping and breathing. She clearly defines the characters she’s playing through vocal inflections and movement, and she never pauses or loses energy during the play. She’s written angry characters, funny characters, and poignant characters, especially the daughter who has been crippled by an aneurysm and can only communicate in quirky, jerky movement. As an exercise in good solo theatre, Pike Street is a stand-out. Its ending, which is a jolt to the senses, comers on abruptly. Pike Street played a one-niter at Northampton’s Academy of Music, and many of my colleagues gave it a thumbs-up, saying it was one of the outstanding performances of the year. I totally agree.

Pike Street runs through February 2. For details: www.hartfordstage.org

Of Note…

Jacob’s Pillow has announced its 2020 season, which runs June 24-August 30 at their complex in Becket, MA. Festival world premieres include new works for Dorrance Dance set by living tap legends and a new solo created and performed by Michelle Dorrance, as the beloved tap company takes over the Pillow’s entire campus in Dorrance Dance Plays the Pillow (July 1-5); a new collaboration between Dance Heginbotham Artistic Director John Heginbotham and composer Ethan Iverson titled Dance Sonata with a solo for former Miami City Ballet principal, Patricia Delgado (July 22-26); a new work by Brian Brooks for The Moving Company (August 12-16); and Liz Lerman’s evening-length work, Wicked Bodies, which takes inspiration from the powerful and grotesque portrayal of witches throughout history (August 19-23).Five companies return to commemorate significant milestones at the Festival, a symbol of historic significance that Jacob’s Pillow Dance Festival holds. Limón Dance Company, which made its company debut at the Pillow in 1946, the same year it was founded, marks its 75th anniversary (July 8-12). Ballet Hispánico (July 22-26) and Cleo Parker Robinson Dance (July 29-August 2), both groundbreaking cultural ambassadors in their own right, each celebrate their 50th anniversaries; MOMIX celebrates 40 years under the innovative vision of Moses Pendleton (August 19-22); and The Sarasota Ballet returns to kick-off its 30th Anniversary Season (August 26-30). For complete program details: www.jacobspillow.org.


James Taylor returns to Tanglewood with his All-Star Band on July 4.. The concert will be followed by a spectacular fireworks display over the Stockbridge Bowl in celebration of the Independence Day holiday. Proceeds from this concert will be donated by Kim and James Taylor to Tanglewood Building and Grounds Projects. Tickets go on sale February 3 at 10AM. At  888-266-1200 or www.tanglewood.org,

Silverthorne Theatre has announced its 2020-21 season, which launches in October with Charles Ludlam’s penny dreadful, The Mystery of Irma Vep. Joshua Harmon’s Admissions, the story of a prep school trying to diversify its population follows, and the classic She Stoops to Conquer arrives in May. The company will present their annual holiday radio play in December. For details: https://silverthornetheater.org/

Local Access to Valley Arts (LAVA) a Greenfield-based non-profit will open a new performing arts and community space, The LAVA Center in downtown Greenfield, MA on January 31. The LAVA Center houses performing arts incubator, black box theater and community space in the heart of the Greenfield’s Cultural District. For details: http://localaccess.org

PlayDate, the pilot babysitting program jointly developed by Hartford Stage and Christ Church Cathedral last year, will extend through the remainder of the 2019/2020 season. PlayDate provides free convenient, reliable babysitting for parents and caregivers eager to relax and enjoy a live theatre performance. The service will be offered on the following 2PM Saturday matinees: Jane Eyre on February 22; The King’s Speech on March 28; and Ah, Wilderness! on May 16. For details: www.hartfordstage.org.


Barrington Stage Company has announced its third Boyd-Quinson Mainstage production for the upcoming 2020 season. The sassy, sultry Tony Award-winning musical Ain’t Misbehavin’, which showcases the music of Fats Waller, will be directed and choreographed by Camille A. Brown. Ain’t Misbehavin’ joins the previously announced musical masterpiece South Pacific by Richard Rodgers, Oscar Hammerstein II and Joshua Logan, The Assembled Parties by Richard Greenberg on the Boyd-Quinson Mainstage and Anna in the Tropics, the Pulitzer Prize-winning play by Nilo Cruz, on the St. Germain Stage. For details: www.barringtonstageco.org.

Keep in Mind…

The Hartford Symphony Orchestra’s Sunday Serenades continues on February 9 at The Wadsworth Atheneum. The program, Mozart and The Romanticsincludes Beethoven’s playful Serenade in D, Op 25, Loeffler’s wistful Two Rhapsodies, Mozart’s sparkling Clarinet Quintet, K. 581, and Schoenberg’s charming transcription of Strauss Jr.’s waltz, Kaiser-Walzer, Op. 437For details: www.hartfordsymphony.org.


, an immersive Clarinet Day, will be presented by the UMass Department of Music and Dance on February 2, in the music wing of the UMass Fine Arts Center in Amherst. Coordinated by faculty member Romie de Guise-Langlois, the full-day event is open to clarinetists of all ages and skill levels. For details: https://www.umass.edu/music/.


PHILADANCO, one of the nation’s most innovative dance companies, celebrates its 50th anniversary season with a performance at the UMass Fine Arts Center in Amherst on February 6. The evening features Endangered Species by Anthony Burrell, a particularly relevant and heart-wrenching piece that addresses police violence towards African-American males. The company will also perform career highlights Super 8! by Ray Mercer, Folded Prism by Thang Dao, and Enemy Behind the Gates by Christopher Huggins. For details: www.fineaertscenter.com

The Springfield Symphony Orchestra returns to Symphony Hall on February 8, with Maestro Kevin Rhodes back on the podium, and featuring flutist Denis Bouriakov and Emmanuel Ceysson. The program includes works by Beethoven, Debussy, Mozart, Bernstein and Ginastera. For details: www.springfieldsymphony.org

Mark G. Auerbach studied theatre at American University and the Yale School of Drama. He’s worked for arts organizations and reported on theatre for newspapers and radio. Mark produces and hosts ArtsBeat Radio for 89.5fm/WSKB, and is a contributor to Pioneer Valley Radio. 

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