It’s been nearly 40 years since the Flying Karamazov Brothers got their start touring small festivals during the original members’ college days – but some things never change for this master group of jugglers and comedians. The theater is still madcap-vaudeville, the humor is still college-level (some of it) and the juggling is still simply astounding. But if you head along to ACT Theatre in Seattle this weekend to see their latest incarnation, be prepared for quite a few gasps – and maybe a bit of red-faced explaining to any pre-teens you take with you.
Let’s start with the gasps. As FKB veterans will know, this is not your average troupe of jugglers. These guys are what you’d get if you mated a glee club with four drummers and the fifth-grade class clown: They can juggle, yes, in the same way that Andrea Bocelli can sing, and they can do it while creating a rhythm with whatever comes to hand. Try four super-bouncy balls, passed around and under a table to a metronome with Dr. Beat precision; or maybe three juggling pins that get whacked on Irish drums in between throws like a visual cha-cha. Or a choreographed symphony of cross-floor juggling to the soundtrack of Grieg’s “Hall of the Mountain King” or while the FKB themselves sing a four-part Renaissance madrigal. This is what the FKB excel at, and it’s worth every cent of the ticket price.
What’s not so amusing, at least not after five minutes or so, is the college-revue humor. “Romeo and Juliet” as a glee song in drag, or inane love-songs with a ukelele – this gets old fast. And then there’s the split-level humor, which they intend to be kid-friendly (i.e. you get the adult double-entendres, your kid just laughs at the slapstick) but for much of the time would actually invite embarrassing queries from anyone over the age of seven. (Fake joints smoked onstage, a popping champagne bottle held in a strategic place, endless jokes about incestuous Virginia hillbillies – you get the idea.)
Nevertheless, this is the kind of wacky creativity that’ll have you laughing all the way home, as cardboard boxes get pounded into Taiko drum fragments, the Champ tries to juggle greased dumbbells and water balloons (bring your own objects, between one ounce and 10 pounds and smaller than a breadbox, for him to attempt) and unsuspecting audience members get burning torches hurled flawlessly around them. The Flying Karamazov Brothers well deserve their reputation.
7:30 p.m. Feb. 9, 10, 11; 2 p.m. Feb. 11; 1 p.m. and 5 p.m. Feb. 12. $35 adults/$28 seniors/$20 under 25/$15 students. ACT Theatre, 700 Union St., Seattle. 206-292-7676, www.acttheatre.org