For pure and basically clean fun, there's hardly an act in the country that can match the Flying Karamazov Brothers - Ivan, Fyodor, Smerdyakov, Alyosha, and Dmitri. (These are not their real names and they are not brothers, but that's beside the point.)
Whatever their identity, these jugglers and comics extraordinaire held forth last weekend at Jacob's Pillow in Becket, Mass., the last act of that illustrious dance institution's long summer season. An audience that included an assortment of babies, kiddies, and accompanying adults - uncommon for the Ted Shawn Theatre, which usually sees the best of dance - saw two hours of the zaniest entertainment this side of the Three Stooges.
Not only are these guys hilariously funny, but they do more things with juggling than Houdini could do with ropes. They juggle while eating apples, they juggle while playing instruments, they juggle while telling an endless stream of one-liners. Says Smerdyakov to jugglers Ivan and Dmitri, ''This is a routine inspection. ... How's the routine going?'' They juggle (not all at the same time , and very carefully) meat cleavers, eggs, and a fake rabbit and two cats (called Wow and Flutter).
One of their best acts is a nightly offer to juggle whatever the audience puts on stage. The night I was there the crowd threw up a three-foot-long zucchini, a crystal glass, a teddy bear, a roll of toilet paper, and a huge piece of juicy watermelon.
The audience gets to choose three items, and Ivan gets three tries to juggle them for more than 30 seconds. If he wins, the audience gives him a standing ovation. If he loses, he gets the traditional pie-in-the-face. He gave his all that night, but how well can you do with a watermelon, a toilet paper roll, and a slimy, freshly caught perch? He lost, but got a standing ovation anyway.
On a slightly more serious side, the Karamazovs do marvelous things with music. They juggle in time to a recording of a Chopin prelude. They pound out rhythms with pins that have taps on them. Most remarkable of all, they create an entire band: One plays the drums while juggling, another a cymbal, and two more play a xylophone with wooden juggling pins. The music? ''Chopsticks.''
Their last stunt, called ''Terror'' - which involves juggling a fizzing champagne bottle, a lighted torch, and dry ice, among other things - is so amazing that I won't tell you how it ends. You'll have to go see them.