note: entire contents copyright 2009 by Sheila Barth
Although “Flings& Eros” is a world premiere starring the multi-talented, internationally acclaimed Karamazov Brothers, there’s a sentence in the media press kit that lets reviewers know the script is still a work in progress - an unfinished show. That fact becomes obvious, even to the audience, early in the 1-3/4-hour play. Immediately after the Flying Karamazov Brothers announce at the outset that they don’t fly - only in planes - that their name isn’t Karamazov and they aren’t brothers, the show became a desultory mishmash, a case of four versatile, likable performers throwing - literally - too much into a vaudevillian vehicle, thus faltering in their overall goal. As a group that earned international acclaim since 1973, in which Paul Magid is the sole original performer left, this cast of characters and their individual talents are dizzying. In the role of Dmitri, the graying ponytailed Magid acts, sings, juggles and plays several instruments, as does Rod Kimball portraying Pavel, Mark Ettinger as Alexei, and Stephen Bent, the youngest of the group, portraying the lovestruck Zossima.
The story is a behind-the-scenes warm-up rehearsal, complete with an offstage voice giving the quartet directions and keeping them on track, while the brothers run through their rendition of “Romeo and Juliet,” and weave their personal romances between scenes. They act, sing, dance, change costumes on stage, play a plethora of musical instruments, juggle, clown around, but also interact with the audience in meaningless ways. The result is a hodgepodge, a dilution of their talents instead of a showcase.
Because they’re juggling lines, costumes, a play-within-a-play, antic dancing, singing, playing many instruments, and several juggling feats, they drop the ball - figuratively and literally - with many of their comedy routines falling flat.
The thing is, this group is amazing to watch. Stephen Bent has a soft, lovely singing voice; Roderick Kimball is a natural comedian, with perfect timing, hilarious gestures and facial expressions; Mark Ettinger is an accomplished musician; and Paul Magid is the glue that holds them together, the senior Everyman. As a group, there is seemingly nothing they can’t accomplish, from playing their dizzying array of musical instruments while keeping all their balls in the air, moving the play and action along.
Magid and Co. should forget the plot. It doesn’t work, or should be simplified, at best. Just watching these guys - perhaps in an hourlong vaudevillian act of yore that lets them shine instead of trying to conquer every facet of a play, would work. The Karamazov Brothers are worth seeing. “Flings & Eros” isn’t.
BOX INFO: Two-act, new vaudevillian play, written, produced, directed and performed by Paul Magid, starring the Karamazov Brothers, appearing through October 4, at the Merrimack Repertory Theatre, 50 East Merrimack St., Lowell; Wednesday, Thursday, 7:30 p.m.; Friday, 8 p.m.; Saturday, 4,8 p.m.; Sunday, 2.7 p.m. Single tickets are $26-$56, with senior, student and group discounts. Post-show forum Oct. 1 at 7:30 p.m. Visit , the Box Office, or call 978-654-4678.