We eyed Ninagawa Company's staging of Haruki Murakami's 'Kafka on the Shore' months ago. None of us knew anything much about Frank Galati (who had adapted the book to the stage) beyond his retirement in 2006 from teaching at Northwestern University and moving from Chicago to Florida. Director Yukio Ninagawa's 'Musashi' was so enjoyable that I simply decided that I would watch all his productions if they come by this way.
This three-hour production had a lot to live up to. But it's not possible to fully compare this and the adapatation of Murakami's 'The Wind- Up Bird Chronicle' by Stephen Earnhart and Greg Pierce. It's a totally different approach. Yukio Ninagawa adapted this production into Japanese from Frank Galati's English adaptation. o.O Yup, chew on that. (Reviews here, here, here and here.)
Done in Japanese with English surtitles, the play is visually stunning. Lots of colors. Some people may find the rolling about of cubes and boxes as backdrop distracting. I loved it. It kept things interesting. Many humans manually moved the boxes/cubes in a seamless flow. We called them 'stage ninjas'. Along with the cast, so nice to see them come out to meet the audience at the end. The cats were ridiculously cute. That black cat Otsuka. The actor either spent loads of time observing cats or owned one.
Now, I watched this stage version with a bunch of humans who're rabid Murakami fans. Okay, maybe not rabid, but you get the picture. I'm so not a Murakami fan. We agree that this stage production is a great summary of what went on in the book. It's a faithful representation and it's clear that the director understood Murakami's writing, and possibly, his intentions too. The vague and nebulous connections in the book were well drawn out and handled on stage. I cracked up when mackerel fell from the 'sky'. It was too funny! I'll go as far to say I prefer this play over the book. It has nothing to do the fact that I was plied loads of sake at lunch.