Theater Review: after the quake—Frank Galati adapts Murakami’s short stories

Opening in the newly renovated upstairs theater at Steppenwolf, ensemble member Frank Galati brings us an experience both innovative and comforting. after the quake is a collection of stories written in 2000. Each has a tenuous relationship with the Kobe quake of 1995. Two of the stories, “honey pie” and “super frog saves tokyo,” overlap and intertwine, moving the lives of the Narrator (Keong Sim), Junpei (Hanson Tse), Sayoko (Aiko Nakasone), Sala (Kayla Lauren Mei Mi Tucker—Tiffany Fujiwara), and Katagiri/Takatsuki (Andrew Pang) forward in their complicated relationships.

Junpei, a writer and the storyteller, is a part of the lives of longtime friend, Sayoko, and her charming daughter, Sala. Played alternately by two utterly charming and childlike young ladies, she is authentic and a complete professional at 6. Memories of the quake still terrify her, and the comforting tales of Junpei bring stability to her life.

Lifetime friends, Sayoko; her husband, played by Pang; and Junpei met in college, and both men fell in love with Sayoko. Sim narrates the story and becomes the frog. You have to see it to understand how cleverly Galati brings to the stage a giant frog.

We remember the stories told and read to us as children. Language and an understanding of the world came from those tales. So well has Frank Galati directed a stellar cast that we become the children we once were, reliving a treasured past.

after the quake runs uninterrupted for 80 minutes. The timing is perfect. The set represents the utter simplicity of Japanese decor. Jeff Wichman plays koto, and Jason McDermott, cello. Their music brings another sense of reality to the play. A long run through Feb. 19, 2006, gives audiences a fine opportunity to experience an unusual, but riveting work.

Tickets are available by calling (312) 335-1650.

From the Nov. 23-29, 2005, issue

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