There's something pure and honest about settling into a seat and getting totally engrossed in simple storytelling.
That's what you get with The Rogue Theatre's production of "After the Quake".
It's theater in a very stripped-down form - just a tea set and a couple of tatami mats serve as the set. There isn't fancy lighting or sound effects. Costumes are street clothes. No sword fights or flying monkeys.
And it is absolutely riveting.
"After the Quake" is an adaptation by Frank Galati of two short stories from the Haruki Murakami book of the same name.
One tale, "Honey Pie" in the book, is about storyteller Junpei, who has a shy side; his friend Katagiri, who is bit of a lady's man; Sayoko, the woman Junpei has loved for years but has been afraid to tell; and her and Katagiri's young daughter Sala, who has been haunted by nightmares since the 1995 earthquake in Kobe, Japan.
Woven through that is "Super Frog Saves Tokyo," the tale of a meek bank clerk who comes home one evening to find a giant frog in his apartment. This is no ordinary frog - he speaks, quotes Nietzsche and Dostoevsky, and he's on a mission to save Tokyo from a giant worm who is out to destroy the city. And he wants the mild-mannered bank clerk to help.
The 80-minute play smoothly moves between the tales, with actors changing characters as quickly as they can change a sport coat.
Director Nic Adams shows a reverence for the work and the format, and keeps the play moving, funny and provocative.
Matt Bowdren gives a wonderful definition to Super Frog, using just his body and a pair of green gloves to portray the character. Bowdren's keen sense of timing guaranteed that the rich humor would shine.
Javan Nelson's Junpei was a character heavy with regret but animated with his storytelling. It was easy to sense his sadness because of the loss of love, and his passion when he told a story.
Kindergartner Larisa Cota played Sala with a finesse that belied her age and acting experience - this is the first play she's ever done.
Owen Virgin did double duty as the player who broke women's hearts and the scared-of-everything bank clerk. He made each role distinct and delicious.
Marissa Garcia seemed uncomfortable in the skin of the character Sayoko, but, then, Sayoko is a little uncomfortable in her own skin.
"After the Quake" is a rich, beguiling tale. It shouldn't be missed.
• What: The Rogue Theatre presents "After the Quake."
• By: Haruki Murakami, adapted by Frank Galati.
• Director: Nic Adams.
• When: Final performances are 7:30 p.m. today, Friday and Saturday, and 2 p.m. Sunday.
• Where: 300 E. University Blvd., in the Historic Y.
• Tickets: $30.
• Reservations, information: theroguetheatre.org or 551-2053.
• Running time: 80 minutes with no intermission.
Contact reporter Kathleen Allen at email@example.com or 573-4128.