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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 appeared on stage with the Flea Theatre, 600 Highwaymen, and Witness Immersive, and on screen for TV shows such as “Bull” (CBS), “Gotham” (Fox), and “Orange Is the New Black” (Netflix).

Collins also organizes with social and climate justice groups, and is passionate about combining acting and activism.

Stephen Hu (Kum-Chol) is thrilled to be returning to the Bay Area with his Berkeley Rep debut. New York credits include “F.O.B.” (Sheen Center) and “Puzzle the Will” (Davenport Theatre). Select regional credits include “Hamlet” (Repertory Theatre of St. Louis), “Macbeth” (Theatricum Botanicum), “Ching Chong Chinaman” (Artists at Play), and “Othello,” “Much Ado About Nothing,” “Measure for Measure,” and “Rosencrantz and Guildenstern Are Dead” (The Old Globe). His last appearance in the Bay was for “Vietgone” at American Conservatory Theater, for which he received the Best Featured Actor SF Theatre Critics Circle Award.

He was recently seen on TV in “The Good Fight.”

Cindy Im (Jung Sun/Soldier Two) has appeared on stage in “Vietgone,” “The Orphan of Zhao,” “Stuck Elevator” (American Conservatory Theater); “Hannah and the Dread Gazebo,” “Julius Caesar,” “Great Expectations,” “The Winter’s Tale” (Oregon Shakespeare Festival); “Miss Bennet: Christmas at Pemberley” (Marin Theatre Company); “The Orphan of Zhao” (La Jolla Playhouse); “The World of Extreme Happiness” (ManhattanTheatre Club); “Twelfth Night” (CalShakes); “The World of Extreme Happiness” (Goodman Theatre); “Measure for Measure” (Seattle Shakespeare Company); and “11 Septembre 2001” (Theatre Dijon Bourgogne/REDCAT).

Film/television credits include “Manifest” (NBC) and “Tigertail” (Netflix). Im is a TCG Fox Acting Fellow and RHE Foundation Fellow, and holds an MFA in acting from CalArts.

Paul Juhn (Official) last appeared at Berkeley Rep in 2007 in “after the quake.” Theatre credits include “Henry VI” (National Asian American Theatre Company); the world premiere of “Hannah and the Dread Gazebo,” “Merry Wives of Windsor,” “The Winter’s Tale,” “Secret Love in Peach Blossom Land,” “Antony and Cleopatra” (Oregon Shakespeare Festival); “Good Person of Szechwan” (The Public Theater); “Sides: The Fear Is Real” (Ma-Yi Theater); “White Chocolate” (The Culture Project).

Film and TV credits include “Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt,” “Quantico,” “Salt,” “The Americans,” “30 Rock,” “Person of Interest,” “Works of ART.” A founding member of both Mr. Miyagi’s Theatre Company and Suffolk Street Films, Juhn received his MFA from UC San Diego.

Jo Mei (Hanako) is making her Berkeley Rep debut. Theatre credits include “We Are Among Us” (City Theatre, Pittsburgh), “Babette’s Feast” (off Broadway/Portland Stage), “Fingersmith” (American Repertory Theater), “World of Extreme Happiness” (Manhattan Theatre Club), “King of Hell’s Palace” (Goodman Theatre), “You for Me for You” (Woolly Mammoth Theatre Company). TV credits include “Crashing” (HBO), “Nicki” (Freeform), “Bones” (Fox), and “The Good Wife” (CBS).

Mei stars in and co-wrote the award-winning film “A Picture of You”; other film credits include “Who We Are Now,” “Adult World,” and “The Grief of Others.” She is a graduate of The Juilliard School’s Drama Division.

Paul Nakauchi (Jiro) is excited to be making his Berkeley Rep debut. Broadway: “The King & I” at Lincoln Center. Off Broadway: “Long Day’s Journey into Night” at Mint Theater, “Chu Chem” at Ritz Theatre. London: “The King & I” at the Palladium. National tour: “Miss Saigon.” Regional credits: “Sunday in the Park with George” at the Guthrie Theater, “Allegiance” at The Old Globe, “Mikado, Inc.” at Paper Mill Playhouse.

He has appeared in the films “The Great Raid,” “Dark Metropolis,” and “Death Note.” TV credits include “ER,” “The Young and the Restless,” and “Deadbeat.” He has voiced numerous characters for games, animated features, and TV, including “Carmen Sandiego,” which has been nominated for this year’s Emmy for best children’s programming.

Grace Chan Ng (Hana) is thrilled to return to the Bay Area for her stage debut at Berkeley Rep, where she previously partook in the Ground Floor summer workshop of “F*ck Miss Saigon.” Recent regional credits include “Dry Land” and “The Black Rider” (Shotgun Players), “You for Me for You” (Crowded Fire), “Hair” (Bay Area Musicals), “Fiddler on the Roof” (Berkeley Playhouse), “Life Is a Dream” (Cutting Ball Theater), and the world premiere of “Where the Mountain Meets the Moon” (Bay Area Children’s Theatre), winner of three Theatre Bay Area Awards. She is a graduate of San Francisco State University.

Sharon Omi (Etsuko) is thrilled to be back at the Berkeley Rep. Before leaving for L.A. many years ago, she performed here in “The Good Person of Szechuan,” “Top Girls” at The Eureka Theater Co., “Uncle Vanya” at American Conservatory Theater, “Tea” at The Asian American Theater Co., among many others. She has worked at South Coast Repertory, Mark Taper Forum, Ahmanson Theatre, East West Players, Playwright’s Arena, and Odyssey Theatre.

Recent TV work includes “The Resident,” “Forever,” “The First,” “How to Get Away with Murder,” and “Criminal Minds.” She starred in the indie film “Eat with Me,” for which she won a best actress award from the Out On Film Festival in Atlanta. Los Angeles theatre favorites include “And the Soul Shall Dance,” “Blood Wedding,” “Innocent When You Dream,” and “Tales of Clamor.”

David Shih (Takeshi/Soldier One) is making his Berkeley Rep debut. His theatre credits include the National Asian American Theatre Company (NAATCO) productions of “Henry VI: Shakespeare’s Trilogy in Two Parts,” “Awake and Sing! and “[veil widow conspiracy]”; “KPOP” (Ars Nova); “Somebody’s Daughter” (Second Stage Theater); “Tiger Style!” (La Jolla Playhouse); “Bike America” (Ma-Yi Theatre Company); “Crane Story” (The Playwrights Realm).

He has appeared on television in “Billions,” “The Path,” “City on a Hill,” “Blindspot,” “Elementary,” “Madam Secretary,” and “The Blacklist,” and in the films “Mr. Sushi,” “Eighth Grade,” “The Amazing Spider-Man 2,” and “Saving Face.” Shih works with Only Make Believe, performing for children in hospitals and care facilities.

The creative team includes Chika Shimizu, scenic designer; Meg Neville, costume designer; Lap Chi Chu, lighting designer; Bray Poor, original composition and sound designer; and Tara Knight, video designer.

Photos courtesy of Kevin Berne/Berkeley Repertory Theatre

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