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Getting out of The Box after the quake

October 24, 2011, the Dresser went out on a rainy night in Washington, DC, to see Rorschach Theatre's production of Frank Galati's play adaption of two short stories by Haruki Murakami entitled after the quake and fell in love with a super frog that did not turn into a prince. What the Dresser loved about Frog (played with agile style by Dylan Myers) were such lines as, "A real frog is exactly what I am. A product neither of metaphor nor allusion nor deconstruction nor sampling nor any other such complex process. I am a genuine frog. Shall I croak for you?" However, she also adored, and what made her a believer was, the way this Frog moved--Myers really had the plié and frogsteps down. His croaking was pretty amusing too.Frog.jpg

So how is a frog in goggles, never mind a super frog, involved in a play called after the quake. The quick answer is that Frog has broken into the apartment of a banker named Katagiri (played by Maboud Ebrahimzadeh) to enlist his help in stopping an earthquake in Tokyo that will be bigger than the one that has already occurred in Kobe. Frog's story is based on Murakami's short story "super-frog saves tokyo." The Dresser assures you, Dear Reader, that Murakami does not use capitalization for his titles.

Where does Frog fit into the other story, "honey pie"? Actually, "honey pie" is the anchoring story. It revolves around Junpei (Daniel J. Corey), a man with two dominant loves: writing fictional stories and Sayoko (Jennifer Ayn Knight), the woman with whom he and Takatsuki, his best friend from college became inseparable college buds. Much to Junpei's silent dismay, Takatsuki makes the first move on Sayoko. She becomes his wife and the mother their child Sala (Megan Graves). The play opens with Junpei telling Sala a bedtime story about a honey bear that makes pies. Four years old, Sala has problems getting to sleep and she is often visited by an imaginary character she calls the Earthquake Man. Earthquake Man in the Dresser's mind is the opposite of save-Tokyo Frog. Sala says Earthquake Man has a small box for everyone and he is waiting with the lid open.

Cleverly, Galati has one actor play Takatsuki and Katagiri. Both of these characters are at heart loners with tough-as-nails emotional hides. In the Rorschach Theatre production, director Randy Baker emphasizes this dual role-playing in the list of Cast and Characters written in the theater's printed program. He omits noting that Frog also plays Narrator and Sayoko also plays Nurse, the nurse who attends Katagiri at the end of the super frog story.

By this time, you might have guessed that Takatsuki is not around when Sayoko and Sala need him so Sayoko calls on Junpei, who is willing to put aside his writing and help out the only woman he really loves. Another thing you might have guessed is that the super frog story is one that Junpei is writing.

What doesn't always work so well with Galati's tight-to-the-original-texts adaption is that there is a bit too much narration. This slows down the action. A challenge for this story-within-a story play is how to effectively stage the stories so that the audience knows when the stories are alternating. It seems right that Baker uses a theater-in-the-round setup so that Frog and Katagiri don't get mixed up with Narrator and Takatsuki. However, the Dresser kept falling out of the story magic because of the bright lighting that kept her aware of the audience surrounding the players.

Nonetheless, the Dresser was pleased to be introduced to Rorschach Theatre housed at the Atlas Performing Arts Center, the work of Rorschach's artistic director Randy Baker (his hanging props were an inspired way to bring new interest to ordinary things like making tea), and the writing of Haruki Murakami. After the play, the Dresser read Murakami's short story collection of the same name. These thematically linked stories (all are set after the 1995 Kobe earthquake) with recurring things like bears, frogs, odd trios of friends, and people and boxes with empty centers enhanced the experience of Galati's adaption.Sala.jpg

While still attending to the things of this world, Margo Stever's poem "Entering the Box" magnifies the terror little Sala has over Earthquake Man's box.


The mind can fill a dank
four-sided darkness
with ticks and sighs.
Nothing turns to something.
Breath knocks against hollow walls
like the hunched unveiled women
who gossip at the open market
and bat their canes at flies.

All my life I've worked
to rid this box of heat,
cold, light, sound,
to have no sense
but bacteria multiply
and anoint dark bread.
Green spores spread
an infected kingdom
over the floorboards.

Even with nothing here,
the telephone next door
rings on and on.
Tennis balls chop
on an asphalt court.
Hammers strike wood
again and again.
An electric saw
alarms mockingbirds into silence.

Margo Stever
from Frozen Spring

Copyright © 2002 Margo Stever

Photo of Sala: C. Stanley Photography


Comments (1)

I love the sounds of this play and this theater. Something to watch, for sure.

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This page contains a single entry from the blog posted on October 28, 2011 9:50 PM.

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