The Flying Karamazov Brothers, whom Washington audiences took warmly to their bosom last year, returned last night to the Kreeger Theater for a week of juggling and other absurdities, guaranteed to raise a chuckle and maybe a hackle or two. Maybe even a cackle.
The four performers, who are, as their fans know, neither brothers nor Russian, blend Marx Brothers style with 1960s sensibility. Throwing everything, including puns, at an unsuspecting audience, they come from a long tradition of simple and direct entertainment. The audience, by the way, is mercilessly abused by these gangsters of zany -- insulted and brought perilously near danger, if not death, several times.
The audience gets its revenge, however, with the famous gambling trick, in which Ivan (Howard Jay Patterson) wagers a standing ovation that the audience cannot produce three objects he cannot juggle. Last night he lost, trounced by a balloon containing an ounce and a half of lead sinkers wrapped in tissue paper, a record and a deadly hook-and-pulley contraption. As Ivan said after the trick: "Karamazovs, 0; Washington, D.C., 1." It was his 600th try at the trick, which is evidence of how long these long-haired refugees from California have been doing this act.
There is one new member -- bearded, bushy-haired Samuel Ross Williams, who replaces Alyosha while he is on paternity leave. Williams, called Smerdyakov, is even more fond of terrible puns than the others and adds a dramatic, juggling (partial) striptease to the act.
If there is anything different about this version of the show, it is that there seems to be more talk and fewer tricks, which is fine if you like silly humor and not so fine if you enjoy the often dazzling, sometimes slapdash, skill of these performers. The ritual sacrifice of a Big Mac gives you some idea of the political drift of the Karamazovs, one of whom hurls the hideous epithet "Republican!" at another during one skit. There is also the Karamazov brand of wise sayings, such as "It doesn't matter how you get there, if you don't know where you're going."
There is still the stupendous character Paolo Barechesto, accompanied, as ever, by his faithful feline assistants Woo and Flutter. An added attraction is Barechesto's daring new trick, the successful effort to launch one of the cats into the "catosphere" via a cannon.
The Flying Karamazov Brothers, performed and created by Howard Jay Patterson, Paul David Magid, Samuel Ross Williams, and Timothy Daniel Furst.
At the Kreeger Theater through Oct. 25.