Past Reviews

Regional Reviews: Seattle

L'Universe at ACT

While computers and technological advances have worked their way behind the scenes in the theatre and make possible various effects, scene-changes and light cues, few shows have brought technology to the forefront and made them a part of the show. The use of video screens may enhance the set and synthesized music may augment the orchestra, but rarely has cutting-edge technology had the starring role in a show. The Flying Karamazov Brothers in their new show at ACT in Seattle have done just that: combined the ancient art of juggling with the up-to-the-minute breakthroughs of MIT's Media Lab in L'Universe (pronounced "loony-verse").

For those unfamiliar with The Flying Karamazov Brothers, they are a troupe of four performers (Paul Magid, Howard Jay Patterson, Mark Ettinger and Roderick Kimball in this incarnation), who have been plying their craziness since 1973. They have appeared all over the world, from the streets of San Francisco to Broadway, and have appeared on everything from Seinfeld (as The Flying Sandos Brothers) to the movie The Jewel of the Nile. Their primary skill is juggling, but never limit themselves to the traditional balls and clubs. They juggle words in snappy (and often awful pun filled) patter, their bodies with choreographed movement and music as well. Being skilled musicians as well, they juggle notes as they play and sing rounds, usually while juggling physical objects. Pretty easy you say? Well, try juggling with one hand, playing the guitar with the other, and blowing on a tin flute at the same time!

Paul Magid
In L'Universe, they combine high speed, intense juggling with quantum physics, and mix in some of the best gadgetry seen this side of James Bond or Batman (I left wondering where they got all those wonderful toys....). Clubs that change color depending on who is holding them and their relative function in the juggling world. Pendulum bells that are swung and rung as the four-man team maneuver around them. Computer generated balls of light that are juggled on a screen. And most impressive (and expensive): a series of sonar transducers and accelerometers which, by measuring the speed of the clubs, the position of the juggler on the floor, and a variety of other variables, produce different notes, and thus create music. Add to this enough quantum physics jargon to make Stephen Hawkins happy, and you have an extremely bizarre mix that was a lot of fun and was surprisingly kid-friendly. Some of the toys need to get broken in, some of the patter needs to feel less scripted, but there is nothing like seeing twelve clubs shifting colors and occasionally bouncing off a stray surface to give you new understanding of 'chaos theory.'

The Flying Karamazov Brothers are at ACT in Seattle through January 30th. From there they travel throughout the United States (NOTE: L'Universe does not start touring until May). For more information on the Seattle production of L'Universe or to buy tickets, call the box office at (206) 292-7676 or visit ACT's website:

- Jonathan Frank

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