Review: after the quake – left me wanting more (in the best possible way)

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When was the last time a play whetted your appetite for more? For me it happened for the first time in many years with the Pi Theatre / Rumble Production presentation of after the quake, currently on stage at The Cultch through October 23rd.

after the quakeBased on two Haruki Murakami short stories “Honey Pie” and “Super-Frog Saves Tokyo”, from a collection of the same name, playwright Frank Galati has cleverly adapted the two together to tell the story of a love triangle between writer Junpei (Tetsuro Shigematsu) and his best friends from college, Takatsuki (Hiro Kanagawa) and Sayoko (Manami Hara).

Woven into the “Honey Pie” love story is “Super Frog”, which in Galati’s adaptation is attributed to Junpei. In this story, a rather unassuming banker (also played by Kanagawa) is recruited by a giant frog (Alessandro Juliani who also acts as narrator) to help battle a giant worm that lives under Tokyo in the hopes of preventing another earthquake like the devastating Kobe quake in 1995. In fact, Murakami’s short story collection was written shortly after that particular quake which killed over 6,000, injured over 25,000 and caused $132 billion in damages, making it one of the most expensive natural disasters in history,

I must admit that I while I found the “Super Frog” story line at times amusing (I kept thinking about all the wonderfully campy Godzilla movies) and made for an interesting analogy to the Kobe earthquake, I found myself more immersed within the “real” world of Junpei and the uneasy and sometimes unspoken bonds that kept this small trio together.  While Shigematsu easily captured Jenpei’s naivety and Kanagawa the awkward false bravado of Takatsuki, it was Hara’s Sayoko that for me was most successful in this love triangle, capturing the layered and conflicted relationship she had with the two men.

Then there is Juliani’s dual role as frog and narrator.  I must admit to being a huge fan of this man’s work and he once again delivers.  Juliani easily moved from the surreal of the “Super Frog” storyline to the observer of the Junpei/Takatsuki/Sayoko relationship in “Honey Pie”.  Despite finding myself being drawn more into the love story side of this play, Juliani’s frog was simply inspired and I found myself waiting for him to start catching flies each time he made an appearance.

Along with the strong performances is an equally strong production including a wonderfully simple Japanese paper screen set design from Yvan Morissette that came to life with lighting from Itai Erdal.  Yota Kobayashi’s sound design was icing on the cake, providing a great accompaniment to both story lines.

after the quake left me wanting more (in the best possible way) and I have already reserved a space for Haruki Murakami on my book shelf.

4 Out of 5 Stars after the quake
The Cultch
13 – 23 October 2010

Tickets are available online or by calling 604-251-1363.

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