On this particular evening, objects selected for the challenge juggle were green slime, eggs in a carton and a large red heart-shaped balloon, half filled with water.
And the wall comes tumbling down in the new Karamazov Brothers show. (l-r) Smerdyakov, Ivan, Alyosha, Dmitri, Fyodor
Prior to the start of the Karamazov Brother's new "Juggle and Hyde" show, one is struck by the stage decorations -- or lack of them. Gone is the familiar Karamazov backdrop. It is replaced by a stack of corrugated boxes that seem to stretch to the ceiling.
The show opened in darkness with all five Flying K's onstage using three green cyclumen lit stage balls doing various patterns. Although one of the brothers explains to the audience that this is a serious, silent piece, the mood is constantly comically interrupted by Smerdyakov (Sam Williams). When the lights come on at the end of the piece, four of the five have left, leaving the silent Fyodor (Tim Furst) standing beside a mechanism with arms that was doing his juggling for him!
Following the lit ball sequence, all five Karamazovs come on stage for the "Taiko drumming" piece. Each brother has a large brown box before him with Dmitri (Paul David Magid) stabbing his box repeatedly rather than drumming on it. It ends with the brothers collapsing on the boxes. Smerdyakov comes on next to do a short bit with boxes, alternately placing three of them under his arms.
Club passing and feeding has always been a Karamazov forte, and this show is no exception. Fyodor fed the other four not just using his right hand, but using both continuously. This part was flawless, so smooth as to look effortless.
Dmitri and Ivan did their Bach musical piece on the xylophone, tapping out a tune while juggling rubber-tipped wooden clubs. As they did the piece, two large boxes pranced onto the stage, got close to each other, and one of them "gave birth" to a baby box. The "adult boxes" and the two musicians left the stage, leaving the very small box alone. Obviously frightened at being away from its parents and intimidated by the audience, the small box scampered away (with the probably help of a model car inside).
Alyosha (Randy Nelson) was on stage in the next sequence telling the audience the story of Goldilocks and the three bears. But the story was twisted to make the chief villain be Goldilocks!
Four Karamazovs next passed clubs with both hands to each other in a box formation, while Ivan stood in the middle talking to the audience.
After Dmitri and Alyosha juggled three large boxes between them, Ivan came on stage and demonstrated martial arts kata to the audience, explaining the "kata are dances for hurting people." As he skillfully demonstrated his kata, he posed many thought-provoking questions such as "what is the sound of one hand clapping," and "where is Ronald Reagan's brain?"
He got down to the real nitty-gritty thereafter -- the three object challenge juggle. The rules were the same as in previous shows. If he can throw three objects submitted by the audience for ten throws, he receives a standing ovation. If he fails, he gets a pie in the face. The objects submitted must weigh less than 10 pounds, be of reasonable size and can be altered three times.
On this particular evening, objects selected were green slime, eggs in a carton and a large red heart-shaped balloon, half filled with water. After a little kidding around, Ivan was ready for action. Alyosha assisted by throwing the carton of eggs in, but Ivan couldn't handle the balloon on the first of his three attempts. Using one of his permitted three modifications, Ivan let air out of the balloon so it was mostly water-filled, and succeeded in getting ten throws off before the objects scattered in different directions. The crowd jumped to its feet in thunderous applause.
Paolo Barechesto (Dmitri) and Igor (Smerdyakov) are on stage next. Igor takes aim at Paolo with, of all things, a bazooka loaded with one club. He fires it so the club soars to the other side of the stage into Paolo's open arms. Two other clubs follow and Paolo does a brief cascade.
All Karamazovs take to the stage in a line for their minaret segment, a juggling/tap dance/rhythm sequence with taps on their gloves and shoes. Just prior to intermission, they perform a feed with Ivan in the middle. A humorous song then leads into intermission.
The second half begins with a spinoff spoof on their "Jewel of the Nile" movie. As Jan (Fyodor) shoots the camera footage behind a cardboard camera, the director (Alyosha) and his able-bodied assistant KuKi (Dmitri) order the crew, cast and extras (the audience) through the motions of the big Sufi warrior scene. Danny (a "volunteer"), plays the hero suddenly attacked by two Sufi warriors (Ivan and Smerdyakov). They surround him and perform KiKi (an ancient Sufi tradition of juggling swords around a victim, vaguely resembling the modern-day 3-3-10 club passing pattern around an individual). Danny stood proudly and fearlessly, never flinching a moment as the Sufi swords flew around him. He gallantly pronounced that "The swords never touched me" and drank a glass of water, which proceeded to leak in a hundred different places from his stunt suit!
Fyodor Karamazov next takes two large boxes from the middle of the wall of boxes at the rear of the stage. He balances four very large boxes on his chins before letting them fall toward the floor. The descending objects are caught by Alyosha, Dmitri and Ivan, who begin passing them between themselves. Following is a flawless 14 club box pattern performed by all the brothers except Alyosha.
Remember the back drums that were built into the old Karamazov show's backdrop? They have now modernized that theme by inventing portable electronic back drums attached to the jugglers shoulders. Four of the five brothers play backup on these new wave instruments as Ivan struts on stage to play lead. He is attached to amplifiers, and creates different sounds by hitting different parts of his body with a lacrosse ball. The ticket for the show is well worth its price for this amusing part alone!
Decked out in new back drums, Brothers K are on the road with a new show.
They have now invented portable electronic back drums attached to the jugglers shoulders. Four of the five brothers play backup on these new wave instruments as Ivan struts on stage to play lead.
Jazz juggling finishes the show. Dmitri leads the feed with everyone but Ivan participating. He joins the others a bit later after disconnecting himself from his amplifier costume. Dmitri again leads the feed as the other four do a weave. Each takes turns leading the feed, speeding things up to the point that it becomes a feed with a continuously changing leader. As if that's not difficult enough, they add some tricks to spice it up some.
The show last almost two hours. It ends with the wall of corrugated boxes collapsing on the ensemble at curtain call.
I've been fortunate to see "Juggle and Hyde" twice -- once in September at the Arena Stage in Washington, D.C., and again in early November at the University of Maryland. Both shows were well done, but there were some differences. The Arena had angled and more comfortable seating, better lighting and perfect temperature. The show started on time, and the Arena also provided a program filled with humorous stories about the Karamazov Brothers. The Grand Ballroom at the University of Maryland left a lot to be desired. The seating was level and the seats were as close as possible. No programs were provided and the show started late. The stage was not high enough for me or my friends to see all that was going on, and we were relatively close to the stage. The seats were uncomfortable and it was very hot.
The big plus at Maryland, however, was Alyosha (Randy Nelson). In September he was absent from the show to be with his wife and assist with the birth of his daughter, Erin. Randy reported after the show that mother and daughter are doing well. He also admitted that he, an expert juggler, let the baby slip right through his hands as he assisted in the childbirth!
The band that has helped them so ably in the past, the Kamikazes, was not at either of theses shows, but will be performing with the brothers from time to time this year.
"Juggle and Hyde" is a nice blend of old bits, modernizations of old bits, and innovative new material. When asked what the future held for the Karamazovs and what direction they were going in, Tim Furst (Fyodor) summed it up by saying, "I'm not sure what direction we're going in right now... but hopefully it's forward!"