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After the Quake is an oddly on-the-nose title for a piece of theater so gauzily elliptical, suggestive, and, well, theatrical. Adapted by Frank Galati from two stories by the Japanese author Haruki Murakami that appear in a collection of that same name—the titular act of God being the 1995 Kobe earthquake that killed more than 6,400 people—the play casts a strong spell, bringing a seductive, fable-like mode of storytelling to its dual-layered meditation on how the quake’s survivors must reckon with their mortality. The surface tale is a years-long love triangle between three friends who meet in college. Junpei (an amiable Daniel Corey) is an aspiring novelist too shy to confess his love to Sayoko (Jennier Ayn Knight), so he loses her to his best pal. When the couple spawns a daughter (Megan Graves), he consoles himself with his favorite-uncle status—and channels his loneliness into his fiction.
Junpei’s magical-realist story—about a shy banker who must aid a giant magical-realist frog in combat against a giant magical-realist worm—provides the evening’s play-within-a-play. Galati’s script preserves luxurious passages of Murakami’s (translated) prose, a sensual pleasure as performed by each member of the company. The design team, meanwhile, has created a visual and aural environment to match the haunted elegance of the words: Newspaper pages and homemade missing-persons flyers paper the theater space’s walls, while bits of detritus—plush toys, plastic bottles, 45-RPM records—hang from the ceiling. Ingeniously, when an actor needs a prop, it’s usually hanging just overhead.
Dylan Myers displays an expansive physicality as the frog who summons the banker, Katagiri, on his heroic mission. (If you’ve ever wondered what those thin-soled rubber athletic shoes with individual toes are for, the answer is: amphibian wear.) Maboud Ebrahimzadeh is double-cast as Katagiri and the pal who steals away Junpei’s love. You pity his characters differently. The same prop—a black-lace curtain, basically—convincingly evokes the worm the frog must fight and later, a terrifying hallucination of an insect invasion of Katagiri’s wounded body. It’s strong, stirring stuff—a modern fable with an oblique moral. It enchants us like a dream and kicks like a nightmare.