Galati & Murakami Shake Berkeley Rep with 'after the quake'
This October, Berkeley is the epicenter of Bay Area drama when Tony Award-winning director Frank Galati brings after the quake to Berkeley Repertory Theatre; performed on the Thrust Stage beginning previews October 12, opening October 17 and runs through November 25.
"In the aftermath of the Kobe earthquake, Japan's illustrious author Haruki Murakami penned a beautiful book of stories by this name – and now Galati offers up a tender and inventive adaptation of two of these tales," explain press notes, "A timid man woos an old flame, enchanting her anxious daughter with whimsical stories of a six-foot frog's fight to save Tokyo. In this poignant new play, we see that a storyteller can't dispel the world's woes, but he can teach a child – and himself – how to face fear. Berkeley Rep and La Jolla Playhouse shake up California with Steppenwolf Theatre's production of after the quake."
The cast of after the quake features Paul H. Juhn (Katagiri/Takatsuki) and Keong Sim (Narrator/Frog), Hanson Tse (Junpei) and Jennifer Shin (Sayoko/Nurse). Two local children will complete the cast, alternating in the role of Sala.
Frank Galati earned rave reviews for Broadway's Ragtime and two Tony Awards for The Grapes of Wrath. Haruki Murakami won Japan's equivalent of the Pulitzer for novels such as "Kafka on the Shore" and "The Wind-Up Bird Chronicle."
Haruki Murakami became Japan's most celebrated author after an epiphany at a baseball game convinced him he could write novels. Born in Kyoto in 1949, he grew up in Kobe and studied in Tokyo. His first book, "Hear the Wind Sing" (1979), won the Gunzou Literature Prize. He followed this success with "Pinball 1973" (1980) and "A Wild Sheep Chase" (1982), earning the Noma Literary Prize for New Writers. These first works are now known as "The Trilogy of the Rat." His subsequent books include "Hard-Boiled Wonderland" and "The End Of The World" (1985); "Norwegian Wood" (1987); "Dance, Dance, Dance" (1988); "South of the Border, West of the Sun" (1992); and "The Elephant Vanishes" (1993). In the early nineties, Murakami spent four years in the United States; he taught at Princeton and wrote "The Wind-Up Bird Chronicle" (1994), which won the Yomiuri Literary Prize. But he returned home in 1995, after the Kobe earthquake and the poison gas attack in the Tokyo subway. Murakami responded to these tragedies by interviewing the victims, publishing a nonfiction book known in English as "Underground" (2000) and the collection of short stories called "after the quake" (2002). Other recent works include "Sputnik Sweetheart" (1999), "Kafka on the Shore" (2005), and "After Dark" (2007). Murakami's books have been published in more than 30 languages – and he often translates American authors into Japanese, including titles by Raymond Carver, F. Scott Fitzgerald, and John Irving. The two stories presented on Berkeley Rep's stage also appeared in GQ and The New Yorker.
Frank Galati is renowned for transforming literary works into transcendent theatre. When he brought The Grapes of Wrath to Broadway, he won a Drama Desk Award, an Outer Critics Circle Award, and two Tony Awards – as adapter and director. He also received a Tony nomination for staging the Broadway hit Ragtime, which turned E.L. Doctorow's novel into a magical musical. Over the years, Galati has earned nine Joseph Jefferson Awards for his work on Chicago stages: five as a director, three as a writer, and one as an actor. In addition, he and his collaborator Lawrence Kasdan were nominated for an Academy Award for the screenplay to Anne Tyler's Accidental Tourist. Galati is a member of the Steppenwolf ensemble, an associate director at The Goodman Theatre, and an emeritus professor in the department of performance studies at Northwestern University. Outside of Chicago, his shows have been seen at many eminent institutions, including the Brooklyn Academy of Music, Long Wharf Theatre, the Mark Taper Forum, and the Metropolitan Opera. In 2002, he was inducted into the American Academy of Arts and Sciences.
Paul H. Juhn (Katagiri/Takatsuki) has numerous New York credits, including Fuenteovejuna with the National Asian American Theatre Company; SIDES: the Fear is Real, directed by Anne Kauffman at Mr. Miyagi's Theatre Company; wAve at Ma-Yi Theater Company; and White Chocolate, directed by David Schweizer at The Culture Project. His regional credits include the Guthrie, La Jolla Playhouse, and Mixed Blood Theatre.
Keong Sim (Narrator/Frog) performed in Rashomon with Pan Asian Repertory Theatre and traveled with that production to the Havana International Theatre Festival. His has also been seen at the Cincinnati Playhouse, the Hangar Theatre, La Jolla Playhouse, Long Wharf, Paper Mill Playhouse, The Public Theater, the Repertory Theatre of St. Louis, and Steppenwolf.
In Chicago, Jennifer Shin (Sayoko/Nurse) appeared in Collaboraction's long-running production of The Intelligent Design of Jenny Chow and in The Artistic Home's staging of Savage/Love. Her first feature-length film, Second Moon, was screened at the 2006 Pusan International Film Festival and at the Gene Siskel Film Center in Chicago as part of the 2007 Asian-American Showcase.
Hanson Tse (Junpei) has performed off Broadway in Righteous Babes at P.S. 122, Romeo and Juliet at The Public, and Zen Junior High at HERE Arts Center. He appeared in the world premiere of Naomi Iizuka's Strike-Slip at the Actors Theatre of Louisville as part of the 2007 Humana Festival of New American Plays, and has also been seen at La Jolla Playhouse, Long Wharf, and Steppenwolf.
The actors are joined on stage by two musicians who perform a dreamlike score on cello and koto, a traditional Japanese string instrument. A member of the Belden String Quartet, Jason McDermott (cello) has provided accompaniment for Alice and Hard Times at Lookingglass Theatre Company, The Clean House at Yale Repertory Theatre, The Dazzle at Steppenwolf, The Father at Writers' Theatre, The Passion Play Trilogy at Arena Stage, Pericles at the Shakespeare Theatre Company, Travesties at Court Theatre, Silk at the Goodman, and Whitman at About Face Theatre. Berkeley Rep audiences will recall the sound of his strings from The Secret in the Wings.
Jeff Wichmann (koto) was first introduced to the koto at Augustana College and then studied under koto master Kazue Sawai in Tokyo, earning an advanced koto license from the Sawai Koto Academy. Over the last 20 years, he has played with numerous ensembles at prestigious places such as the Kennedy Center, Lincoln Center, and the Tokyo Museum of Contemporary Art. He also performs with the rock band Tenki.
The creative design team includes James Schuette (sets), Mara Blumenfeld (costumes), James F. Inglass (lighting), Andre Pluess and Ben Sussman (sound).
Previews are October 12 – 16; Opening Night is October 17 with performances through November 25.
Show times are Tuesdays & Fridays at 8PM; Wednesdays at 7PM; Thursdays & Saturdays at 2PM & 8PM; Sundays at 2PM & 7PM. There are no performances on Thanksgiving, Thursday November 22. No matinees during previews or on October 18 & 27, and November 1, 10 & 15.
Tickets (Previews $27-$37; Performances $33-$69) are on-sale now. Discounts are available: Half-price tickets available for anyone under 30 years of age, $10 discount for students and seniors one hour before curtain. Groups of 10 or more, contact 510-647-2918. For tickets or information, call 510-647-2949 or toll-free at 888-4-BRT-Tix – or simply click www.berkeleyrep.org.
Berkeley Rep's Thrust Stage is located at 2025 Addison Street, one block from Berkeley's downtown BART station and close to AC Transit bus lines. The box office is next door at 2025 Addison Street.
Photos by Michael Brosilow: Keong Sim as The Frog; In after the quake at Berkeley Rep, a love story between (front row, l to r) Aiko Nakasone and Hanson Tse intersects the wild adventures of (back row, l to r) Andrew Pang and Keong Sim