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At The Doolittle : Karamazovs--humor In The Juggler Vein

October 08, 1987|DAN SULLIVAN | Times Theater Critic

In all the annals of jugglery--back to the god Jugglerius himself--no one has ever done it like the Flying Karamazov Brothers.

It's not just how they juggle, but what they juggle. Stuff that your mother wouldn't let you pick up in the street.

Jell-O, for instance. Not in little boxes. In globs. Also fish fillets. Trying to keep this slippery muck in orbit with a flying machete keeps a man interested in his work.

This happens in the section of the Flying K's new show at the James A. Doolittle Theatre where, just as in their old show, the audience tries to present Brother Ivan (Howard Jay Patterson) with something that absolutely can't be juggled.

Incidentally, the next time somebody brings in fish, let it be fresh. Tuesday night's fillet projected all the way to the balcony.

This couldn't always be said for the Flying K's. A certain amount of verbal scam is built into their act, but they could still stand to put a little more energy into their diction. That aside, this show is about as good as juggling gets. It's even fun if the viewer has never seen the point of juggling. To the Flying K's, the pointlessness is the point. Some day they should write a book: "The Art of Zen Juggling."

Where goal-oriented jugglers like Ra-Ra-Zoo make you tense, the Flying K's calm you down. They refuse to acknowledge the concept of error. When a club lands on the floor, it is proof that the laws of gravity are still working (always nice to know) and will find its place in the pattern, like a wayward note in a jazz solo.

Either that, or all the other clubs also land on the floor and the boys go into a huddle, like the seven dwarfs. There are five Flying K's, and they aren't really brothers, but there is a kind of clan resemblance. And the little one, Smerdyakov, has definite overtones of the Black Forest. Answer my riddle and the Princess will be yours.

Smerdyakov's real name is Sam Taylor, and he's from Seattle. These are Americans, as untortured as you can get. Alyosha (Randy Nelson) is as laid-back as David Letterman and, like Letterman, a connoisseur of oddity. He was absolutely intrigued when someone handed up an old dress shoulder pad to be juggled. Who would carry this item around?

Their new show is called "Juggle & Hyde: A Play with Words." This means nothing, as far as I can see, but play certainly defines what they do, and it's the informed kind of play that's allowed only to experts. You can't jam until you've got the notes.

They are also musicians. What is the sound of one hand playing a Bach invention, while the other hand is juggling? It happens here in twin formation--Dmitri (Paul David Magid) and Ivan. But their most exotic effort in the concert line is a sublimely silly production number whose props include strap-on drums, a synthesizer, a Radio Flyer sled and a frog-man suit. The question isn't, "How do they do it? " but "Who would think up something like this?"

There's also a spoof of the major pomposity that prevails on a Hollywood set (the Flying K's were featured in "Jewel of the Nile"), where the assistant director talks only to the director, and the director talks only to himself. Here the boyssuggest New Age Marx Brothers, including a silent one, Fyodor (Timothy Daniel Furst).

Stick around for the curtain call. Their set is composed of a huge pile of cardboard cartons--not only trendy, but cheap--and it does exactly what the 7-year-old kid in us hopes it would do. Sons of Jugglerius, we salute you.

Performances at 1615 N. Vine St. are at 8 p.m. Tuesdays-Saturdays, at 7:30 p.m. Sundays, with matinees at 2:30 p.m. Saturdays and Sundays. Through Oct. 18. Tickets $11-$18; (213) 410-1062 or (714) 634-1300.

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