after the quake by Haruki Murakami

Dates and Venue 20 November – 5 December 2009, 8pm | Studio 16, 1555 W. 7th Ave

Reviewer Ed Farolan

Western writers have had an impact on Japanese novelist Murakami, and after the quake takes its audience on a journey where Gabriel Garcia Marquez's magic realism collides with the Kafkaesque exploration of disrupted reality.

Junpei (Tetsuro Shigematsu), the timid writer who enchants Sayoko (Manami Hara), the love of his life, is perhaps the author who conjures up stories to soothe the anguish of her young daughter Sala (Leina Dueck), a girl who is having nightmares of the Earthquake Man. Frank Galati's stage adaptation of the novel explores the emotional aftershocks of the 1995 Kobe earthquake where approximately 6,400 people were killed and 300,000 left homeless. The tragi-comic adaptation offers a message of hope and healing as the story unfolds.

I found the play refreshing in that we have Japanese actors, probably first generation Canadians, interpreting the roles of the main actors. I commend directors Craig Hall, Artistic Producer of Rumble Productions, and Richard Wolfe, Artistic Director of Pi Theatre, for this excellent selection. In his programme notes, Wolfe comments that Murakami is the ideal writer to launch Pi Theatre's opening play of the season, and Hall states that Murakami is his favorite author.

The actors were excellent. They "owned their lines", as it were, and interpreted their parts as if they were the characters themselves. Alessandro Juliani as Frog and Narrator was fantastic. His acting prowess and versatility is second to none. Charlie Chaplin came to my mind as I watched him perform his roles.

The Japanese motif in the set design byYvan Morissette was simple, functional and orderly, just like all things Japanese. Itai Erdal's lighting design, especially the use of shadows, was excellent, and Yota Kobayashi's music and sound effects, especially the dreamlike echoes in Frog's dialogues, were unique.

This, indeed, was a superbly executed production. Kudos to the cast and production staff for one of the best plays I've seen this year.

© 2009 Ed Farolan