One of the main characters of After the Quake (the play at Pi Theatre in Vancouver) is a frog, a six-foot tall frog that walks and talks and tries to save Tokyo from an earthquake by battling the angry Worm underneath the city. Not only does Frog manage to defeat Worm, he does so while having an existential crisis: he knows he is frog, but he also knows that, at least in some way, he is wholly unfrog.
This is one of the several plot lines of the play adapted from Haruki Murakami's story collection After the Quake. At times the adaptation (by Frank Galati, associate director of the Goodman Theatre in Chicago) works very well: the dialogue is funny and the characters interact easily and naturally. However, the narration, of which there is much, approximates novelspeak: that form of writing meant only for reading to oneself, never to be spoken out loud. This novelspeak is most recognizable by sentences that start with gerunds (verbs ending in -ing). The proof: when narrating, the actors, a dynamic and capable cast, spoke in awkward rhythms and sounded like they were reciting lines they had memorized rather than telling the audience a story.
Still, the plot lines were strong enough to keep the audience engaged, and the dialogue caused uproarious laughter. In the end, the audience gave a standing ovation, which might be the best indication of whether to see the play.
After the Quake
November 19 – December 2, 2009
Directed by Craig Hall and Richard Wolfe | Starring Manami Hara, Alessandro Juliani, Kevan Ohtsji, Tetsuro Shigematsu and Leina Dueck
Pi Theatre 1555 West 7th Ave. Vancouver