Pi Theatre and Rumble Productions
After the Quake by Haruki Murakami, adapted for the stage by Frank Galati

Dates and Venue 13 - 23 October 2010, 8pm (October 16, 2pm & October 17, 4pm matinees) | Vancouver East Cultural Centre

Director Criag Hall and Richard Wolfe Stage Manager David Kerr Set Design Yvan Morrisette Costume Design Sheila White Lighting Design Itai Erdal Sound Design Yota Kobayashi

Reviewer John Jane

After the Quake is Haruki Murakami collection of six stories that offer a surreal vision of the aftermath of the devastating earthquake that centered near Kobe in January, 1995. Frank Galati's stage adaptation takes the last two stories: Super Frog Saves Tokyo and Honey Pie and weaves them together into a single narrative.

The earthquake caused great depredation, leaving over 6,000 people dead and 300,000 homeless. However, Murakami doesn?t deal with the physical destruction, but simply uses the quake as a symbolic reference.

Honey Pie is the primary fable and proffers greater verisimilitude. It trails a triangular relationship between central character Junpei, his college friend Takatsuki and the object of his unrequited love Sayoko. Junpei is deeply in love with Sayoko and to a lesser extent, she with him. But it's ultimately Takatsuki that offers her marriage. Junpei (Tetsuro Shigematsu) however remains a part of Sayoko (Manami Hara) life even after her divorce and birth of her daughter Sala (played with perfect precociousness by Hara's real-life daughter Leina Dueck).

Junpei is a writer and story-teller whose narration is the conduit into the subordinate story, Super Frog Saves Tokyo. In this absurdist tale of redemption, Katagiri (Hiro Kanagawa, who also portrays Takatsuki in the main story) is confronted by a six feet tall frog (Alessandro Juliani) who insists on being addressed as "Froggie." Katagiri, a mild-mannered and perpetually perplexed bank employee is understandably mystified why this sartorially elegant and eloquent frog should need, or even want his assistance in seeing-off the threat of an earthquake in Tokyo, potentially more destructive than the one that created such havoc in Kobe.

Alessandro Juliani, who plays the ubiquitous frog in one story and the transparent narrator in the other is simultaneously menacing and humourous. Hiro Kanagawa, who paradoxically offers an understated performance as the mannish Takatsuki and a deliberately overplayed one as the timorous Katagiri is outstanding.

Yvan Morissette's exotic set of a typical Japanese home complete with fusuma sliding panels is exquisitely enhanced by Itai Erdal's atmospheric lighting.

Craig Hall and Richard Wolfe maintain a fine balance between surrealism and realism, at the same time keeping true to Murakami's wistful style of story-telling.

The ending of After the Quake is unpretentiously inconclusive, but propounds a sense of hope for all of us.

© 2010 John Jane