January 24, 2000
The wildly popular neo-vaudevillian troupe The Flying Karamazov Brothers has a new show, L'Universe, currently on stage at ACT (A Contemporary Theatre). The production, a collaborative effort with the Massachusetts Institute of Technology's Media Laboratory, explores the cosmology of the universe through combining the worlds of science, juggling, music, and comedy.
L'Universe makes use of new technologies created for the first time by MIT's Media Lab, one of America's top think tanks, along with the Karamazovs' unique theatrical skills. The Brothers, Dmitri (co-founder Paul Magid), Ivan (co-founder Howard Jay Patterson), Alexei (Mark Ettinger), and Pavel (latest addition to the group, Roderick Kimball), weave high-tech wizardry with their wacky style of showmanship, and the results are both fascinating and hilarious.
In one scene, they appear on stage, armed with a radio-triggered sound system, which allows them to play Beethoven's "Ode to Joy" by bopping their heads with clubs while juggling. Another high-tech toy devised by the M.I.T. technonauts is the "sonar transducer," a signaling device sewn in comic, co-pilot style leather hats. The device signals a juggler's position to an offstage computer, and then software uses this information to trigger notes and pitch. There are also "accelerometers" placed in the jugglers' clubs or on their wrists which measure changes in movement and can be used to change pitch, volume or speed.
Music is played as such, while the troupe engages in various juggling acts along with their usual patter of shtick. A major component of the show is a huge screen, located to the back of the stage, which depicts virtual juggling, in which computerized objects are "juggled" by the performers' shadows. There is also a wonderful segment using a suspended pendulum, which the troupe hits with hammers to create a lovely piece of music.
Throughout the production, the Brothers, taking on the identities of famous scientists (Aristotle, Galileo, Sir Isaac Newton, and Dr. Albert Einstein), spout off various scientific theories regarding energy, light, and relativity, in an effort to explain the laws of the universe. At times, this discussion becomes very esoteric and difficult to follow, but it is tempered by the sheer entertaining quality of the show and the theatrics of the Karamazovs.
L'Universe is a feast for the visual and auditory senses and is fun for audiences of all ages. The show runs through January 30th. For ticket information, call 206-292-7676.