Shows with gags and awesome jugglery dodge vaudeville label

``Juggling and Cheap Theatrics'' The Flying Karamazov Brothers The Flying Karamazov Brothers are back on the local scene in finer form and fettle than ever.

It would be insulting these manic clowns to report that they have gotten their act together. Nothing could be further from the point or the object. Their ``Juggling and Cheap Theatrics,'' now at the Vivian Beaumont Theater, is a happy dispensation from cloud cuckoo land, a triumph of organized mayhem, a mad melee of awful gags and awesome jugglery. The beginning and end result is hilarious.

In addition to your regulation clubs (in a rainbow of colors), the five unrelated Karamazovs juggle sickles, apples and hatchets, foils, a trio of items supplied by the audience, and a variety of other objects. They exhibit their ensemble musicianship as a wind quintet and sing a cappella. Two Karamazovs play a xylophone duet, juggling the hammers.

While ``cheap theatrics'' embellish the occasion, juggling is the sine qua non of the adroit nonsense. The main event of part one is a challenge in which the Champ (Timothy Furst) undertakes (in the words of the program) to ``juggle any three objects, heavier than an ounce, lighter than 10 pounds, and no bigger than a breadbox. If he can keep the objects in the air for at least 10 seconds, he gets a standing ovation. If he fails, he gets a pie in the face. The Champ can modify the objects three times any way he wants. The Champ will not juggle live animals or anything that would prevent the Champ himself from continuing to be a live animal.''

With juniors heavily and enthusiastically represented at the preview matinee I attended, the Beaumont stage was quickly littered with toys, dolls, miniature airplanes, shoes, and other juggle candidates. By a Karamazov-conducted poll, the audience selected an open container of Jell-o, a black telephone set, and a flounder. (Now who brought that?) The Champ never got past three seconds, winding up with pie on his face and a consoling round of applause.

Part two opens with a desert ``movie location'' in which an audience volunteer bravely stands his ground between two scimitar-slinging Karamazovs. Meanwhile, the performance plot (and it does have a plot) has been steadily building. As they pursue their apparently dizzy course, the brothers, clad in Slavic-style costumes, introduce ``terror'' objects which they place in readiness for future use. The objects include handcuffs, a ukelele, a meat cleaver, an egg, and a skillet. Could there be a simpler way to approach the frying of an egg? Not with the Karamazovs.

For sheer prowess, the feat is equaled (or surpassed) only by the juggle jam session for which Paul David Magid, Randy Nelson, Howard Jay Patterson, Sam Williams, and the aforementioned Mr. Furst re-dazzle an already dazzled audience. The dazzling continues at the Beaumont through April 27. The Alchemedians A collaborative work conceived and choreographed by Bob Berky and Michael Moschen. Directed by Ricardo Velez.

An assortment of stainless steel mixing bowls spin and hurtle their way onto the stage of the Lamb's Theatre.

Are they out of control? Out to lunch? Out of this world?

Specifically, they are out of the collaborative imaginations of Bob Berky and Michael Moschen, the movers, shakers, and jugglers of ``The Alchemedians.'' As the Sonics section of Act I continues, the mixing bowls take on lives of their own, assisted not only by Berky and Moschen but by marvelously timed music and sound effects. The accompaniment ranges from an intimate conversation to an earthquake, from Strauss and Handel to Louis Prima `a la Benny Goodman for a climactic ``Sing, Sing, Sing.''

While nothing quite equals the mixing-bowl extravaganza for sheer exuberance, Berky and Moschen continue to demonstrate that, in the hands of a juggling wizard, there's no such thing as a totally inanimate object. That is the nature of their alchemy.

Mr. Moschen's contributions feature the manipulations of glass objects -- rods and balls. In the soft glow of Jan Kroeze's lighting the rods become glimmering extensions of the artist's own movements, at one point suggesting an airy solid geometry. The glass spheres behave even more magically. Beginning with four balls, Mr. Berky gradually reduces the number and refines the trick. Without ever appearing to ``handle'' it, he ends the stunt prone on the stage with one glass ball balanced on his forehead.

Although they resist being classified among ``the new vaudevillians'' (the Karamazovs, Bill Irwin, Penn & Teller, and Avner Eisenberg), Berky and Moschen share with their peers the feature of audience participation.

In ``The Alchemedians,'' red-nosed clown Berky invites a man and woman from the audience to play his patsies in an impromptu recital involving kazoos, a hand bell, and a frowzy tutu. It employs a classic device for involving game but bewildered spectators in clown foolery. Although overextended, the caper won laughs for the foolishness and applause for the volunteers.

``The Alchemedians'' combines mime, dance, juggling, clowning, and paraphernalia in an adroit and imaginative manner. Within a kind of medieval-modern setting by John Kahn, accompanied by high-tech sound effects and David Van Tieghem's music, Berky and Moschen have devised an entertainment that mingles tradition, innovation, sophistication, and a touch of Rube Goldberg. It begins with sonics and mixing bowls and ends with fire as the partners juggle flaming torches. As always, the quickness of the hand delights the eye.

With Ricardo Velez as director, ``The Alchemedians'' has costumes by Mei-Ling Louie and sound design by Jan Nebozenko.

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