T. James Belich

"after the quake" at Walking Shadow

On Friday evening I went to see Walking Shadow Theatre's final production of the season, after the quake adapted by Frank Galati from the novel of the same name by Haruki Murakami. Set in 1995 Japan after the Kobe earthquake, this adaptation interweaves two of the stories from Murakami's novel: that of the writer Junpei and his relationship with Sayoko and her daughter Sala, and of Mr. Katagiri who must help Frog save Tokyo from Worm.

The stories are simple, elegant, and beautiful, and in the hands of this superb cast they shine. Eric Sharp is perfect as the introspective writer who, though he has loved Sayoko (Katie Bradley) since college, cannot quite bring himself to admit it, despite the clear need she and Sala (Natalie Tran) have for him in their lives. Kurt Kwan's transformation from the arrogant almost-jerk Takatsuki (Sayoko's ex-husband) to the completely ordinary Mr. Katagiri is so complete that I didn't realize they were the same person until the curtain call. And Brant Miller brought just the right inhuman element to the touchingly sincere Mr. Frog ("Just call me Frog"). The minimalist set and cellist Cory P. Grossman's playing both add the right atmospheric touches to this slightly surreal tale of love, courage and imagination (and I don't how set designer Steve Kath made the table slide in and out of the floor like that, but I want one).

There's really not much more to say other than this show is exactly what theater is supposed to be: an excellent script, strong acting (and directing, thanks to company member Amy Rummenie), and technical elements that bring you into the world without distracting from it. (And I agree with Rummenie: sit on house left if you enjoy watching the musician.) As a writer, I was reminded here that sometimes the simplest stories are the most beautiful.

after the quake is playing at the People's Center Theater in Minneapolis through May 21st. This is one of Walking Shadow's best so my suggestion is don't miss it. 5 out of 5 stars for a perfect production.

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