Natural disasters on a grand scale continuously occupy the world stage, but when they play out at the Rogue Theatre, the result is a celebration of the human spirit rather than a descent into destruction.
While they stem from the same catastrophic event - a 1995 earthquake in Kobe, Japan - the two stories that play out in the Rogue's "After the Quake" could not be more different.
Nic Adams, in his directorial debut at the theatre, uses the adaptation of Japanese writer Haruki Murakami's short stories to juxtapose the vignettes "Honey Pie" and "Superfrog Saves Tokyo" for an immersive look at how the characters face their fears in the wake of tragedy.
The fantastical side of the play is grounded by its more realistic origins: Junpei (played by Javan Nelson), the main character in "Honey Pie," is the writer responsible for "Superfrog Saves Tokyo," in which a giant frog (played in costume by Matt Bowdren) aids a Japanese collections officer in stopping the earthquake-generating Worm from wreaking havoc on the city.
Meanwhile, Junpei copes with his passive role in a love triangle and strives to be as active as the characters he writes about.
"You have a very naturalistic love story, and then a very magical, funny piece of theatre," Adams said. "As an audience member, you've got the best of both worlds."
The cast of five, which includes 6-year-old Larisa Cota as Sala, are the main focus in "After the Quake," rather than the dramatic set design and direction one might expect from a play about disaster.
"The Rogue tends to do some pretty strong, heavy, vivid material during the main year," said artistic director Joe McGrath. "We wanted to do something that was a little gentler - it's funny and it's quite romantic - but at the same time it has its poetic strengths that we really like."
In keeping with tradition at the Rogue, a post-show discussion with the cast and Adams will follow each performance. It lets the audience delve deep into the play, which makes subtle but cosmic observations. The cultural transition from Japan to the American stage also merits analysis, McGrath said.
"It's interesting to see these characters from these other cultures, and we like to say, 'They're people just like us,' which they are, certainly, but they also have cultural differences and different ways of looking at the world that are fascinating and refreshing," he said.
The universal nature of overcoming trauma unleashed by the Earth, however timely, is a lot to tackle in 65 minutes, but Adams credits Murakami for the play's lasting emotional resonance.
"It's a short play, but it's like a haiku," Adams said. "It's very dense."
If You Go
• What: The Rogue Theatre presents "After the Quake."
• By: Haruki Murakami, adapted by Frank Galati.
• Director: Nic Adams.
• When: 7:30 p.m. preview show Wednesday and next Thursday; 7:30 p.m. June 21, 22, 27, 28 and 29; 2 p.m. June 23 and 30.
• Where: 300 E. University Blvd., in the Historic Y.
• Tickets: $20 preview performances, $30 for all others.
• Reservations, information: theroguetheatre.org or 551-2053.
Kate Newton is a University of Arizona journalism student who is an apprentice at the Star. Contact her at email@example.com