MEIBOKU SENDAI HAGI (The Troubles in the Date Clan)
This play is about the attempt to take over one of the most famous samurai households in the Edo period, a scandal that caused a sensation in its day. After the pleasure loving lord is deposed, his young son is nominally in charge, but the villains try to get at him any way they can.
The highlight of the play shows the efforts of the boy's nurse Masaoka to protect him, even sacrificing the life of her own son and features onnagata superstar Tamasaburo in this difficult role. She must confront Nizaemon as a villainous woman from the shogun. Kichiemon appears as larger-than-life villain Nikki Danjo, evil and clever, a master of magic. He appears disguised as a rat and confronts the heroic Otokonosuke, performed by Mitsugoro as a bombastic aragoto character, then escapes, walking calmly through the clouds.
The final scene is a realistic trial in which the elderly loyal retainer Geki (Karoku) confronts Nikki Danjo, but all is saved by the wise judge Katsumoto (Nizaemon) who seems to encourage Nikki Danjo, suddenly using his testimony in the end to punish him for his crimes.
The evening program begins with KEYAMURA, a play from the puppet theatre, that shows a master swordsman named Rokusuke (Kichiemon) living humbly in the countryside only to meet his fianc'e, a powerful woman named Osono (Fukusuke) and goes to avenge the death of her father, his fighting teacher. The highlight of the play is the contrast between the two highly contrasting sides of Osono's character. She is a fierce fighter on the one hand and delicately feminine when she learns that Rokusuke is her future husband.
The evening program ends with two of the greatest examples of the Kansai style of kabuki. This style is relatively realistic and features the lives of commoners in the Osaka-Kyoto region. KURUWA BUNSHO is one of the oldest classics in the repertory and shows a wealthy playboy who has been disowned by his family, but sneaks into the pleasure quarters to see his lover, the top courtesan in the quarter. The play is light-hearted and is full of word plays and comic routines. Starring the most famous couple in kabuki today, Nizaemon, representing one of the foremost families of Kansai acting and onnagata superstar Tamasaburo.
The program ends with SONEZAKI SHINJU (The Love Suicides at Sonezaki), one of the most famous plays in kabuki. Based on a real incident and first performed in the Bunraku puppet theatre in 1703, this play by Chikamatsu Monzaemon transformed the theater by showing that the lives of commoners could have as much dramatic weight as the lives of the upper classes. In recent times, its sensuous realism made it seem very modern and it has become the specialty of Sakata Tojuro, who has played the role of Ohatsu over 1,200 times and this month, performs this signature piece once more.