after the quake
(This is Jerry's review of the original 2009 production.)
after the quake is an absolute delight. Adapted for the stage by American Frank Galati, Japanese writer Haruki Murakami’s sweet, funny love story cum fantasy gets a perfect production from Pi and Rumble directors Craig Hall and Richard Wolfe. Playing to packed houses at Studio 16, this is deservedly the hit of the late fall season.
Yvan Morissette has designed a handsome approximation of a traditional Japanese wood-frame house with rice-paper walls and a couple of sliding panels. Itai Erdal’s atmospheric lighting and Yota Kobayashi’s superb sound effects provide the texture.
The play weaves together a love story with a story told by one of the lovers. Short story writer Junpei (Tetsuro Shigematsu) and his friend Takatsuki (Kevan Ohtsji) both fell for Sayoko (Manami Hara) in college. Eventually Junpei and Sayoko ended up together. That’s a very short version of the very sweet romance told retrospectively by Junpei and the play’s narrator (Alessandro Juliani).
The second plot line is a story Junpei tells Sayoko’s young daughter, Sala (adorable Leina Dueck), who has been having nightmares after the Kobe earthquake. Junpei makes up a tale about a man named Katagiri (Ohtsji again) who is recruited by a giant frog (Juliani again) to do battle with the great worm who causes earthquakes, and thereby save Tokyo from destruction. This is a frog that quotes Nietszche and Hemingway and cites Tolstoy and Dostoevsky.
The frog story is very funny, the love story wry and gentle. Murakami writes with a sweet simplicity and the actors all fall nicely into his rhythms. But the linchpin of this show is Juliani, especially in his turns as Frog. He’s an elegant amphibian with only long-digited green gloves to suggest his frogginess, along with occasional funny-scary electro-acoustic distortions to his voice. Juliani does everything else through subtle body language and vocal attitude. This is one of his strongest performances to date.
Nothing about this show is going to change your life or the way you think about theatre. It’s simply a delightful 90 minute treat.