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The Female of the Species

4Play

The Flying Karamazov Brothers' entertaining new show combines juggling prowess with a musical sensibility.

By New York City
Stephen Bent, Paul Magid, Mark Ettinger,
and Roderick Kimball in 4Play
(© Mark Raker)
Stephen Bent, Paul Magid, Mark Ettinger,
and Roderick Kimball in 4Play
(© Mark Raker)
"Juggling is music," declares a performer in The Flying Karamazov Brothers' entertaining new show, 4Play, now at the Minetta Lane Theatre. And there is definitely a musical sensibility that runs throughout this lighthearted piece, which should appeal to both adults and children.

Unlike some of the troupe's previous shows, which have plundered the storylines of works such as Shakespeare's The Comedy of Errors, there isn't much of a plot. Rather, the four male performers -- Paul Magid (who also directed), Mark Ettinger, Roderick Kimball, and Stephen Bent -- combine their juggling prowess with explorations of various forms of music (and sometimes dance). There's a tribute to Japanese Taiko drumming, a pseudo-ballet sequence, choral singing, and a rather bizarre segment that they claim as representing "Polish Appalachian Clog Dance."

One of the highlights is a routine that applies jazz improvisation to the art of juggling, while another has the performers playing various musical instruments in a unique collaborative manner while also keeping several balls in the air. Several of their bits use whatever they're juggling to make percussive sounds, while others are performed to a background instrumental track.

For each show, the audience is asked to bring in items for Magid to attempt to juggle. At the performance I attended, these included a snowball, an umbrella, and a stick of butter. The performers also engage in patter with the audience, and tell a large number of puns -- some groan-inducing and others unexpectedly hilarious.

Costume designer Susan Hilferty has outfitted the troupe in a combination of formal wear and whimsy that includes, at various points in the show, tuxedo jackets, kilts, tutus, and even a belly shirt. The clothing is an added element of visual humor that is perfectly in keeping with the off-the-wall antics that the Brothers regularly engage in.

The show builds to a final routine in which the performers juggle nine items that they have introduced throughout the proceedings, including a meat cleaver, a ukulele, and a flaming torch. The Brothers emphasize both the danger and the humor of their choices (particularly for audience members in the front row and closest to the items being thrown about), and it's a finale that certainly doesn't disappoint.


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