Featuring: Paul Magid (Dmitri), Harry "Boom Boom Sweets" Levine (Kuzma), Chen Pollina (Chenovski) and Kiyota Sage (Kiyotov)
When: February 15 through February 24, 2013.
Where: San Jose Repertory, 101 Paseo de San Antonio, San Jose
Tickets: $36-$74 (Student and specialty discounts available). Visit San Jose Rep tickets or call 408-367-7255.
Visit The Flying Karamazov Brothers website.
to buzz San Jose Rep
Paul Magid called on Sunday, very polite, to tell me he had to postpone our interview for half an hour, because The Flying Karamazov Brothers were still rehearsing.
He used several European accents to do that -- I think I identified French, Italian, Spanish and German.
It was a short conversation, but a goofy one.
We hooked up for a longer talk, as advertised, a half an hour later, as Magid -- AKA Dmitri, a founding member of the Flying Karamazov Brothers, took time from his lunch break to chat with me.
Magid and three other Karamazov Brothers -- Harry "Boom Boom Sweets" Levine (Kuzma), Chen Pollina (Chenovski) and Kiyota Sage (Kiyotov) -- are at the San Jose Rep, where their show, "40 Years of Wandering, Juggling, and Cheap Tricks," is to open on February 15. It's to run through February 24, 2013, with a couple of days off in the middle.
Get your tickets soonest.
The Flying Karamazov Brothers are pretty much everything that is possible in the world of entertainment, in one crazy amazing and talented package. They juggle, they tell jokes, they play musical instruments, they find new and weird things to do with technology, they perform Shakespeare while juggling, they do all kinds of things.
The troupe got its start, as advertised, 40 years ago, on April 23, 1973. Somebody threw $1.65 worth of coins into a couple of hats that were lying on the ground. The hats' owners, Magid and Howard Patterson, had been juggling at a Renaissance Faire in California.
"Upon seeing the unsolicited money glinting in the morning sun," readeth their history, "art and body and soul melded into one."
The Flying Karamazov Brothers grew to four or more usually long-haired and/or bushy-haired people who performed everywhere from the streets of Santa Cruz to Broadway and London stages, concert stages and pretty much anywhere else that money-glinting-in-the-sun thang might happen, including appearances on TV and in movies, and performances with bands and orchestras, including a tour with The Grateful Dead.
After 30 years, Patterson retired, leaving Magid as the sole original Karamazov Brother still performing.
But the group's ranks have grown, although Magid, who is the group's director and producer, is not sure by how much.
"There are probably about ten of us," he says, "But there might be more."
Magid will be a key part of the show at the Rep, during which a lot of hysterical historical histrionics will be recounted and recreated, since he is the guy who's been there for all of it.
The original street busking stuff will be represented, plus remembrances of touring with The Grateful Dead, of various Shakespearian and other play-type adventures they have had, and even something about when they did stunts with Danny DeVito for the movie "The Jewel of the Nile."
At least four of the other Brothers are doing another show on the East Coast, Magid says. The Flying Karamazov Brothers website lists ten brothers, but that list does not even include two of the brothers who are in the San Jose show.
Here's part of the secret to the success of The Flying Karamazov Brothers, in addition to their talents as actors, musicians and jugglers: They practice a lot.
"Oh," says Magid during call, "We rehearse eight, nine ... ten hours a day. ...
"It looks like craziness, but amazing amounts of precision are necessary for it to be presentable, on time and in rhythm, and to make the whole theatrical end of it work. Rehearsing can take months.
"Juggling is a collaborative item, something you have to be in agreement about," Magid says. "You can make a mistake and the whole thing explodes. Each person has to know their business and be relaxed. You have to get thought out of it. You can't thinking about what you are doing."
That's because it all happens amazingly quickly, with not a little bit of danger involved, especially when juggling, say, six scythes. As they have said during that skit, you can only catch a scythe by the wrong end once.
How do they find people to do this stuff?
"A lot of people want to do it," Magid said. "But we don't hold auditions that often. The training process can be a long time. Not that many people can do it. There are various skill levels. And people have to be able to sing, play music, count, understand rhythm, and most important, have to be theatrical and funny."
The two younger guys who are part of this show at the San Jose Rep, Chenovski and Kiyotov, I am guessing, weren't even born when The Flying Karamazov Brothers were created. Magid says it's fun to see them jumping around.
"Two old guys, and two young guys," he said of this show.
Among the skits, the slide shows, the songs, the juggling, will be a bit they call The Challenge. Audience members bring stuff to the show, and Magid juggles it. After some years of experience a very few rules emerged, such as weight limits, and that the stuff cannot be something that is alive, and that it can't be something that might kill Magid.
He usually wears a raincoat for this one.
But his worst injury in the show happened another way.
One of my favorite Flying Karamazov Brothers adventures was when they did Shakespeare's "The Comedy of Errors" at Lincoln Center in New York. I didn't see that in New York, but I saw the recording made for PBS, which was made just a few weeks after what was Magid's worst injury ever.
The show itself is fabulous. It is Shakespeare at his funniest -- the tale of two sets of twins, both sets identical, both sets unknowingly split at birth. Add The Flying Karamazov Brothers, Avner the Eccentric and a whole troupe of other performers to the mix, with juggling, tap-dancing, goofy music and lots of other jokes, and it is non-stop hilarity.
"We were doing 'The Comedy of Errors' in Lincoln Center, in the Vivian Beaumont Theatre, which wasn't meant to be a theater originally, and had this huge lighting grid that I had to crawl across. Toward the end of the show, the twins get revealed. During the reveal, I climb down a rope from the lighting grid.
"I developed this trick where I throw the rope and jump at the same time. One time I threw the rope and missed, and there I was, in the air by myself. I fell about 30 feet.
"I was a mountain climber, so I knew how to fall. You have to decide how you are going to land. I decided I would land on my butt and shoulder.
"I hit, and I was still conscious. The funny thing was, all the performers had their backs to me. When Howard turned around, I asked him, 'Am I OK?' He said yes. There was about ten minutes left in the show, so I finished it, then went to the hospital."
Magid's pelvis was bent, and he had a minor concussion.
"The worst part was my hands," he said. "They were shredded down to the tendons."
He couldn't do the rope trick again for three weeks. It was not long after that when the PBS recording was made. Something to remember if you ever see it.
In the meantime, catch The Flying Karamazov Brothers at San Jose Rep. Magid says it will be a fun show, and I believe him.