Sunday, July 23, 2000

Theater review

Karamazovs juggle fancy toys, bad puns

By Jackie Demaline
The Cincinnati Enquirer

        In the beginning, The Flying Karamazov Brothers were known for juggling and cheap theatrics, which is what they named their first Broadway show back in 1983.

        That was already 10 years after they had hit the road with their signature entertainment that combined juggling and such total hip that they could tell jokes older than the Catskills and actually get laughs.

        The boys are back in town after a 10-year absence, spending a couple of summer weeks at Playhouse in the Park with their new show L'Universe, continuing through July 30.

        The foursome still indulges in cheap theatrics and those excruciating jokes that killed vaudeville.

        But in middle age — and while still way cool and sporting the same luxurious hair they did in the '70s, original brothers Paul Magid and Howard Jay Patterson are middle-aged — the Brothers are now boys with serious electronic and computer toys.

        It's the toys that win the night.

        L'Universe is a witty, high-concept show, in which the Brothers argue that the theories of relativity (specific and general) don't agree with the theory of quantum mechanics.

        With a great big circular screen behind them on which all sorts of visual tricks are performed, the Karamazovs put forth some theories of their own, experimenting with things like “invasion of personal space” (that would be the audience's personal space.)

        They dress up (occasionally) like Aristotle, Galileo, Newton and Einstein. Who knew these geniuses had such an inclination for bad puns?

        Somehow all the experiments involve music, video, slapstick, those terrible jokes and, sometimes but not always, juggling. The quartet drop the clubs a lot, but nobody in the audience cares because the Brothers don't.

        I wouldn't dream of ruining the surprises, but expect to “oooh” and “aaah” a lot over a couple dazzlers that involve chimes and percussion. The audience also loved the show closer that featured light-up-in-the-dark clubs.

        A couple of wildly complex routines were, I suspect, a lot of fun to develop, but don't have enough pay-off for the audience. The boys with the toys are having more fun playing than the audience does watching.

        New brothers are Mark Ettinger and Roderick Kimball. Mr. Ettinger is clearly a serious musician which may be why the Brothers decided to show off their musical abilities on a variety of instruments. The musical interludes are agreeably eccentric but don't add anything to the show.

        The guys should give their computer technician Stephen McCandless full Brother status. He's a big part of what works.

        You'll want to bring kids to the show. They'll learn about quarks and such, if they haven't already on PBS, and they'll probably enjoy the comedy more than you will. To them it will seem new.

        The Flying Karamazov Brothers in L'Universe, through July 30, Playhouse in the Park Marx Theatre. 421-3555.


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