JAPAN: Murder in the Kabuki

Discriminating geisha girls came near to swooning over him. Austere drama critics agreed that no Kabuki actor had mastered his art more perfectly. A great lover, onstage and off, lithe, handsome, 64-year-old Nizaemon Kataoka was Japan's Van Johnson, Alfred Lunt and John Barrymore rolled into one.

In the complex hierarchy of Japanese drama, the Kabuki (literally "type of theater"), originated by Folk Dancer O Kuni in 1603, comes closest to the western theater. Less formal than the classical Noh drama, its stages extend into the audience like burlesque runways. Actresses are rare...

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