American Premiere of ‘The Great Wave’ at Berkeley Rep

From left: Paul Nakauchi (Jiro), Yurié Collins (Reiko), Sharon Omi (Etsuko), and Julian Cihi (Tetsuo) in the American premiere of “The Great Wave” at Berkeley Rep, directed by Mark Wing-Davey.

BERKELEY — “The Great Wave,” written by Francis Turnly and directed by Mark Wing-Davey, is having its American premiere at the Berkeley Repertory Theatre through Oct. 22.

In a Japanese coastal town in 1979, teenage sisters Hanako and Reiko run onto the beach during a tremendous storm on a dare. Hanako is tragically swept out to sea, while Reiko survives – but recalls seeing three mysterious men on the shoreline. The authorities determine that Hanako has drowned, but her mother insists that her missing daughter is still alive.

Spanning over 20 years and the two vastly different countries of Japan and North Korea, “The Great Wave” by is at once a riveting geopolitical thriller and a powerful story of the unshakable bonds between a mother, a daughter, and a sister who refuse to give up hope.

“Berkeley Rep has long been championing playwrights like Francis Turnly who offer us access to stories and worlds that aren’t often explored onstage,” says Artistic Director Johanna Pfaelzer. “‘The Great Wave’ illuminates a gripping story of international intrigue told through an intensely personal lens. Seeing it is like experiencing a propulsive page-turner, which I find rare in the theatre.”

Showtimes: Tuesdays at 8 p.m. (except Oct. 22); Wednesdays at 7 p.m.; Thursdays at 8 p.m. (also 2 p.m. on Sept. 26 and Oct. 24); Fridays at 8 p.m.; Saturdays at 2 and 8 p.m. (no matinee on Sept. 28); Sundays at 2 and 7 p.m.

Q&A with actors on Oct. 8, 10 and 25. Docent-led discussion after every matinee. Cloed captioning now offered at every performance.

Individual tickets begin at $30 ($15 if you’re under 35) and can be purchased online at or by phone at (510) 647-2949.

From left: Julian Cihi (Tetsuo), Yurié Collins (Reiko), and Sharon Omi (Etsuko) in “The Great Wave.”

Francis Turnly is a playwright and screenwriter. He was a winner of a Channel 4 playwright bursary in 2015 and as a result was writer-in-residence at the Tricycle Theatre, which culminated in him winning the Catherine Johnson Best Play Award in 2016. “The Great Wave” was co-produced by the National Theatre and the Tricycle in 2018. He is developing several projects for screen, including a feature film with Element Films/Film4, and has TV commissions with Balloon, Brightstar, and Bryncoed.

Turnly is Japanese/Northern Irish and is often inspired by stories from both countries.

Mark Wing-Davey first came to prominence in the U.S. in 1992 with his celebrated production of Caryl Churchill’s “Mad Forest” at New York Theatre Workshop. Since then he has worked extensively in New York for Labyrinth Theater Company, Lincoln Center, Manhattan Theatre Club, Playwrights Horizons, and The Public Theater/New York Shakespeare Festival.

“The Great Wave” is his sixth show at Berkeley Rep: after “Mad Forest” made its West Coast premiere here, he also staged “The Beaux’ Stratagem,” “The Life of Galileo,” the world premiere of Naomi Iizuka’s “36 Views,” and “Pericles, Prince of Tyre.” He directed an acclaimed “Angels in America” at American Conservatory Theater and directed Sarah Ruhl’s “Passion Play” at the Goodman, at Yale Rep, and most recently for Epic Theater Ensemble. His other credits include productions of new and classic plays at theatres across the U.S., as well as shows at the Edinburgh Festival, London’s National and Royal Court Theatres, and musicals in the West End and Australia. He is an arts professor at New York University’s Tisch School of the Arts and chair of its Graduate Acting Program.

He will be directing “The Vagrant Trilogy” by Mona Mansour at The Public Theater in spring 2020.

From left: Paul Juhn (Official), Cindy Im (Soldier Two), and Jo Mei (Hanako) in a scene from “The Great Wave.”

The Cast

Julian Cihi (Tetsuo) is making his Berkeley Rep debut. He was born and raised in Tokyo before moving to the U.S. to attend Brown University (BA) and later NYU Tisch Grad Acting (MFA). Theatre credits include “Doctor Zhivago” (Broadway), “Romeo and Juliet” (Classic Stage Company), “A Month in the Country” (Williamstown Theatre Festival), and “Wild Goose Dreams” (La Jolla Playhouse). Cihi has also performed in several musicals in Japan, including “Rent” and a musical adaptation of “As You Like It,” all in Japanese.

He most recently appeared in the second season of Amazon Prime’s original TV series “The Tick” as a villain named Edgelord.

Yurié Collins (Reiko) is honored to lend voice to the untold stories of people from her home country. Born and raised in Wakayama, she is currently based in New York City. She has appea