July 24, 2015

A sudden craving for Kentucky Fried Chicken swept over me at one point during the stage adaptation of the Haruki Murakami novel “Kafka on the Shore,” being presented through Sunday at the David H. Koch Theater as part of the Lincoln Center Festival. It has been well more than a decade since I’ve visited a KFC, but those familiar with Mr. Murakami’s playful metaphysical mystery will recall that Colonel Sanders — or rather a spirit taking the form of that corporate icon — is among the strange array of characters in the book. So, too, is Johnnie Walker, the top-hatted figure strolling across many a whiskey bottle. And by the conclusion of this visually arresting but ponderous three-hour production, performed in Japanese with English supertitles, thoughts of crispy chicken had been swept away by a stronger craving for a bracing glass of that liquor. Or indeed any other. The production, adapted by Frank Galati (who earlier adapted and directed a stage version of two stories from Mr. Murakami’s collection “After the Quake”) and directed by Yukio Ninagawa (making his third appearance at this festival), features an alluring and impressive set design by Tsukasa Nakagoshi. The wide expanse of the stage — usually home to New York City Ballet and other dance companies — is filled with large glass boxes lit by fluorescent tubing. These vitrines, of various shapes and sizes, are manipulated by black-clad figures so that they slip and slide smoothly around like ambulatory dioramas, giving the sweep of the story an almost cinematic flow. Scenes from the book take place mostly inside or just outside these boxes, which represent locations as varied as a quiet private library, a teeming red-light district, a long-haul truck and a remote forest idyll.