More than just entertainment, the Flying Karamazov Brothers' juggling show also includes a comic tour through philosophies of the ages.
The group's Monty Pythonesque program "LIFE: A Guide for the Perplexed" takes its title from a book by the 12th century Judeo-Spanish sage Maimonides.
The program, which comes to the Turlock Community Theatre next week, also includes a Bollywood-style version of the Indian epic poem the Mahabharata and a visit from the Babylonian Emperor Hammurabi.
"On many different levels, people will enjoy it," said Paul Magid, who wrote the show and plays Dmitri Karamazov. "Philosophy people will like it and 2-year-olds will enjoy it. The whole family will enjoy it."
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Magid, along with "brothers" Howard Jay Patterson (Ivan), Mark Ettinger (Alexei) and Roderick Kimball (Pavel) also will perform an array of challenging tricks. In one bit, each fingers the other's musical instrument, juggles, and sings a different tune. In another they play a circular six-octave instrument while simultaneously juggling and singing.
Magid also promises to juggle any three objects the audience can provide that are heavier than an ounce, lighter than 10 pounds and no bigger than a breadbox. In the past, he has juggled nylons filled with eggs and a nine-foot (dead) octopus.
Raised in Los Altos and now living in New York City, Magid, 52, said he came up with the idea for the show three years ago in Italy. At the time, he was grappling with balancing faith and reason, something Maimonides (a distant relative) addressed in his book.
"The show is about somebody in a crisis who goes through the book and does funny, crazy things," he said.
The Flying Karamazovs formed in the early 1970s in the Bay Area, taking their name from Dostoevsky's novel "The Brothers Karamazov" after they noticed parallels between the characters in the book and their stage personae.
"Of course...they had no idea that most Americans had neither read the novel nor even heard of Dostoevsky," the group wrote on its Web site www.fkb.com. "They never imagined that they were setting themselves up for a lifetime of being asked where their trapezes were and complimented on how well they spoke English."
Over the decades, the group shared the stage with a variety of famous people, including Frank Sinatra, the Grateful Dead, Dolly Parton and Robin Williams.
They've performed six times on Broadway and appeared as The Flying Sandos Brothers on an episode of "Seinfeld."
"It was fortunately one of the funnier ones," Magid said about the sitcom gig. "People really like it and talk about it all the time."
Magid said he never gets tired of juggling because there are so many interesting aspects to the art form.
"It's music, it's rhythm, it's physics, it's numbers, it's symmetry, it's visual poetry," he said. "You could never be good enough, you always have this drive to do new things."
The secret of the Karamazovs' longtime success is that the group constantly changes its act and develops new shows, Magid said. The group is involved with a lot of plays and just finished their own adaptation of Miguel de Cervantes' "Don Quixote" in San Diego.
"It's an interesting exercise and experiment in theater," he said.
WHAT: Flying Karamazov Brothers/"Life: A Guide for the Perplexed"
WHEN: 7 p.m. Feb. 23
WHERE: Turlock Community Theatre, 1574 E. Canal Drive