Sunday, July 15 , 2018, 11:01 pm | Fair 68º


Review: Flying Karamazov Brothers Take Act to New Heights

The comic jugglers — and the audience — have a ball during their high-flying performance at The Granada

No, they can’t fly. They aren’t actually brothers. And that’s not even their real name. Yet, on Friday evening at The Granada, the Flying Karamazov Brothers presented an evening of the most authentic entertainment one is ever likely to see.

Paul Magid, who founded the ensemble in 1973 and is the sole remaining original member, greeted the audience at the opening of the show by asking everyone to stand, turn around and shake the hand of the person behind them. After a few seconds of confusion, turning and finding no hand to shake, reality — and self-effacing laughter — set in and the audience took their seats again, aware that it was going to be no ordinary evening at the theater.

Often billed as a juggling troupe, the Flying Karamazov Brothers are indeed virtuosos of this art, but they offer so much more. Combining elements of theater, dance, music, pantomime, slapstick and audience participation, each performer is musician, hoofer, clown and ringmaster all in one. They even make music while juggling, with their props — musical instruments and anything that isn’t nailed down.

Dressed in dashing assemblages of utilikilts and black ties, Magid, Mark Ettinger, Roderick Kimball and Stephen Bent were certainly adept at weaving the various elements along with a healthy dose of vaudevillian humor. But their juggling prowess was where the magic resided.

They juggled balls, clubs and eggs, and in the grand finale, a combination of items as far-ranging as a cleaver, a skillet, a block of dry ice, a flaming torch and a stuffed fish. In one bit, they took contributed items from the audience and narrowed them down to three using the applause-o-meter method. As a result, Magid juggled a motorcycle helmet, a child’s down vest and a large bra for a count of 10, thus earning a standing ovation.

They made it look so easy that it was often possible to forget how staggeringly difficult the feats are and how many hundreds of hours of practice must have gone into their flawless execution.

Although it wasn’t always flawless, and it perhaps gave the audience a different view into the art form. With clubs, the four created intricate patterns, passing them back and forth so fast among themselves that it was nearly impossible to see them, let alone get one’s mind around the level of expertise being displayed.

Magid announced at the beginning of the segment that dropped clubs were a reality in juggling and that when it occurred, the audience was to trust that the clubs would be picked up and put back into play without delay. Indeed, it did happen a few times. And sure enough, the retrieval of the clubs became part of the act, the banter between performers easy and relaxed, and even the act of picking them up had to be woven into the dance.

It was easy then to imagine them as young men decades earlier in Harvard Square or the streets of San Francisco — learning by doing, working the crowds, cultivating the skill, chatter and chops necessary to make it in the world of street performing — perhaps unaware that the groundwork they were laying would make it possible for them to one day advance to some of the grandest theaters in the world.

It made clearer the humanity in all of us, and the fact that no one is perfect. It was also a beautiful reminder that it’s how gracefully you pick up what’s been dropped and get back into the flow that’s important.

— Justine Sutton of Santa Barbara is a freelance writer and reviewer.

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