Monday, November 07, 2005

Life: A Guide for the Perplexed by the Flying Karamazov Brothers

I became aware of the Flying Karamazov Brothers back in the 1980s when I saw their version of the A Comedy of Errors on PBS. All of Shakespeare's story was there, and the Karamazovs and their friends delivered all the lines. The really funny thing was that they did it all while juggling. Pins and balls in the air. Balls bouncing off walls and from the floor. All kinds of juggling. I could hardly take my eyes from the television. The Karamozovs are amazing jugglers.

Last week I got to strike through one of my life goals (second or third level, but still pretty important). I saw the Flying Karamozovs in Life: A Guide for the Perplexed at the McAninch Arts Cener at the College of DuPage. At 8:00 p.m. (maybe 8:02 p.m.) the house lights went down and the spot lights came on to show four buildings on wheels rolling onto the stage. Behind each was one member of the company. After a little dance of buildings, the members stepped forward and started juggling. The show had begun.

The Flying Karamozovs do more than juggle. They dance, tell jokes and stories, dress in silly costumes, sing, and play musical instruments in ways that you would not expect. In one scene of the show, the Karamazovs lined up with a flute, baritone horn, and guitar between them. One member blew the flute while another fingered the instrument. Likewise, one blew the baritone while another fingered. One fingered the frets while another strummed the guitar. The Karamozovs at the ends with one free hand each juggled balls back and forth across the ensemble while they played a merry tune. There seems to be almost nothing they will not try.

A tradition at Karamazov performances is The Gamble, a real test of juggling expertise. Members of the audience bring to the stage many strange items, which are then chosen for juggling according to the applause of the audience. Last Tuesday, being the night after Halloween, there were several pumpkins and other leftover decorating items, as well as many general household items and odd toys. The audience chose a big rubber ball, a Chicago telephone directory, and a bowl of salad for Dmitri to juggle. He had three tries to juggle the three items for ten seconds. He succeeded on the second try, after the modifications. He was rewarded with a standing ovation.

Throughout the show, the Karamazovs returned to four-juggler roving juggling that took up a lot of the stage. The stomp stomp stomp stomp told you it was coming. They actually dropped juggling pins several times in these exercises, but their humorous reactions to the errors made the viewing even more fun.

The Karamazovs have a website with history of the troop, a description of Life: A Guide for the Perplexed, and a schedule of upcoming performances. If you are lucky, you can see them, too.

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