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Weekend Reviews : Theater : Cooking Up a Mixed 'Club Sandwich'

February 20, 1995|LAWRENCE CHRISTON | TIMES STAFF WRITER

"Club Sandwich" is the latest venue where the four Flying Karamazov Brothers touch down in antic display of their precocious silliness, musical ability and, of course, juggling skill. The club is billed as a place for juggling millionaires--at this point in their careers, the Karamazovs come closer than anyone else for exclusive qualifying membership--and as we saw over the weekend at the Ambassador Auditorium, it serves as the beginning and terminus for a plot so loosey-goosey that the audience is enlisted to keep it on track.

Or so it would seem. You never know about the Karamazovs, for whom occasional klutziness could be construed as a relief from the tedium of perfection--which only compounds their cleverness. In this case, a hopelessly labyrinthine plot is no doubt intended as a sendup of hopelessly labyrinthine plots.

Or, sometimes they may really get in over their heads.

That seems to be the case in this mystery-adventure spoof in which they start out as a 1930s quartet of tuxedoed New York swells who take up the chase for a map that will lead them to the discovery of an Egyptian Pharaoh's self-juggling clubs. Naturally, the map comes in two torn parts, each in the possession of a fraternal twin who--enough! That's all you want to know right now.

Their Cairo stop is the most entertaining, based strongly as it is on the movie "Casablanca." Howard Jay Patterson plays the Sidney Greenstreet part, sporting a gut that looks as though a goiter has dropped into his pants. Michael Preston in drag (a swanky woman with a goatee) asks Sam Williams to play the line "You must remember this," which, of course, Sam can't remember. So Preston sings it--sounding just like Dooley Wilson.

*

A happy mess is not necessarily a bad thing--it never kept the Marx Brothers from cooking in a giddy ether. But, for all the Karamazovs' chockablock puns, multiple characterizations, musical asides and sight gags, "Club Sandwich" stretches beyond the breaking point. There are some hairpin turns you can't take without crashing. Even spoofs require a congruent tension, a delicate film stretched over the thing being spoofed. Which is another way of saying you can chase a laugh so far that people are kept waiting.

The boys didn't help their cause by appearing under-rehearsed; that is, occasionally confused. And they in turn weren't helped by a faulty sound system in which their mikes intermittently cut out in an effect of electronic ear-popping.

Fortunately, they haven't forgotten what brought them to the dance. In each of them, including the so-far unmentioned Paul David Magid, you can see how juggling has created possibilities for expression that have nothing overtly to do with juggling but play out of juggling's imperative: rhythm. As in their other theater pieces, they'll use any pretext to get themselves into a diamond or a close-order drill formation and begin flipping clubs in cycles as elegant and precise as Bach fugues. And when the magic clubs finally appear, they're like an illustration of particle physics twirling in a dance of light.

DANCE

* Alvin Ailey American Dance Theater opening. F10

MUSIC

* Anderson Quartet; Leontyne Price. F6

POP

* Jon Secada; Amy Grant; Kinks' tribute. F4

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