Theater: Japan's Wondrous Road Show

The Grand Kabuki brings tales of triumph and tragedy

It is an art as old as Shakespeare's. With in its emotional universe are found heroic legends and pathetic domestic tragedies, as well as broad comic treatments of such eternal human vagaries as drunkenness and adultery. Immediately accessible on the level of mime, it is nevertheless highly sophisticated, yielding its ultimate secrets— and thus pleasures— to those who have taken the time to study it. Its name once connoted "outlandish" or "eccentric," yet it literally means song-dance-skill. It is Kabuki.

Kabuki is probably best viewed in its...

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