The Flying Karamazov Brothers, not known for their close association with either aviation or Dostoevsky, have returned to town with a show titled "Welcome to Our Livingroom" at the Arena's Kreeger Theater.
If you didn't see the foursome last season -- and even if you did -- you should probably juggle your schedule to catch their current act. They put on a helluva show.
What they do, essentially, is juggle and crack jokes -- often very bad jokes. But they do these things in beguiling permutations: juggling bowling pins, balls, torches, hatchets, belongings from the audience, live cats, a stuffed rabbit; joking about everything from politics to plane crashes ("Ladies and gentlemen, the captain has turned on the bad taste light," says one after getting off a blackly humorous line).
Juggling, they even manage a credible performance of "Chopsticks" and boogie- woogie on xylophone and drums.
The Brothers, who are not really brothers, are Howard Jay Patterson (Ivan), Paul David Magid (Dmitri), Samuel Ross Williams (Smerdyakov) and Timothy Daniel Furst (Fyodor). As jugglers, they are all superb; they'll also do for clowns.
After a bit of funny business involving the scenery, they come on stage, each by a different means -- Fyodor climbs out of a steamer trunk -- dressed in black cossack costumes and floppy hats. With frazzled mustaches and frizzy long hair, they all look slightly wild.
"Hey," they shout in greeting. The audience cheers and laughs. Then they start with a juggling bit called "The World's Fastest Feed," and the audience watches amazed.
In comic spirit, the Karamazovs are kin to the Marx Brothers -- Smerdyakov, especially, has a penchant for unbearable puns, while Fyodor, Harpo-like, never speaks -- but much of their humor is on the same wavelength as Steve Martin, The National Lampoon and "Saturday Night Live."
In one bit of comic nihilism, they have their way with a rubber rat ("You dirty Brother, you killed my rat," Smerdyakov snarls in a Cagney cadence). In another, Dmitri, in the guise of Paulo Barechesto, "Animal to Friends," juggles two defenseless cats named Wow and Flutter (but in a manner that wouldn't upset the ASPCA.)
The political jokes, not surprisingly, are not as ambidextrous as the Brothers -- generally gibes at Ronald Reagan, "our acting president." But the humor's so good-natured that only the stuffedest shirts should be offended. THE FLYING KARAMAZOV BROTHERS -- At the Kreeger (Arena) through October 10.