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Sukkot to Me!

September 23, 2010 By:
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Up in the air, yet down-to-earth: Mark Ettinger (left) and Paul Magid of FKB

What better time than this to go for the juggler?

After all, Sukkot and juggling go together like meat axes, and peanut-butter-and-jelly sandwiches.

At least they do when the Flying Karamazov Brothers get their hands on them.

Give a hand to Paul Magid and his magical merry pranksters, who juggle holidays and hilarity in an act that does justice to Dostoyevsky.

Or does it?

Idiots savant? Smart moves by brilliant erstwhile buskers: Magid does assume the infamous character of Dmitri in this demimonde, where demitasses can go flying along with bowling pins and a lit torch as the brothers get their act together in "4Play" for a long run playing off-Broadway (www.fkb.com).

And Magid is off-and-juggling as we chat at the Minetta Lane Theatre, where he and his colleagues have just doused the torch of their torch-song quartet of quips, and he lights up talking about how he's a sucker for Sukkot.

"I was juggling in the Old City of Jerusalem," he remembers of one engaging engagement with his troupe -- which he co-founded in 1973 -- "and someone asked me if I can do eight torches," a reference to the Talmud's tale of Rabban Simeon ben Gamaliel juggling just that during Sukkot.

Tell you what, the Israeli then told Magid of a really good gig, "You have an invitation to come back and do it when the Second Temple is rebuilt."

Before then, the Seattle-raised Sephardi Jew has enough engagements to keep his hands going, which they do at warp speed along with the warped humor that serves as stand-up to abet the objects that fly through the air with the greatest of ease.

Trapeze artists who never leave their feet? The fete is to trap the audience into feeling that they're part of the act.

No trap needed; they are. And as one of the brothers dropped a pin on the floor, a young audience member in the first row grabbed it, returning it, suddenly making it the Flying Karamazovs and Kid.

If it all sounds amazing and amusing, sound is the key element here, with echoes of excellence.

"I've always thought of what we do as an art," avers Magid. "I think of it as music," a concert with comedy as catalyst. "And I think of it as theater."

He makes it so, having started out by giving it the old college try. Magid and partner Howard Jay Patterson ("Ivan") -- freshmen at the University of California at Santa Cruz -- teamed up, juggling academics and theatrics at the time.

Patterson has since retired, as have other original members; the current brotherhood now numbers Mark Ettinger, Rod Kimball and Stephen Bent, with Magid the lone remaining original member.

Whatever the incarnation, they have always been hailed as entertaining outside the box -- it's designed that way; their set is comprised of dozens of cardboard boxes -- which have netted them an Obie Award, dozens of TV shows -- including the crest-of-their-TV-career appearance on "Seinfeld," which explains why "Scene" left his crest-embroidered sports jacket home -- the film "Jewel of the Nile," and shows that have tumbled and turned heads throughout the world.

It's a juggle out there -- not that it's always been.

"Howard and I didn't know much about juggling when we first started," says Magid. "We were just smart Jewish boys into science and math."

It has added up to a godsend for the gurus over the years and for the biblically described art.

Jews mining fool's gold?

"Talmud teaches us it is fine to make fools of ourselves, that it is an important part of being Jewish" -- lessons taught even by the Baal Shem Tov, says Magid.

Festive Follow-up
After all, the Jews have a sense of humor about life. And isn't Sukkot, with its festive nature, following Yom Kippur, the most solemn day of the year, an example of the ying-yang of Yiddish kups?

"On a deep level, everything is juggling," claims Magid, also a prominent writer as well as director -- he produced/ directed "4Play" -- with a number of credits that, unlike the pins he handles, are dropped into his bio.

Not that there's anything wrong with that -- juggling and dropping.

"You are defying gravity and will eventually lose. It's like living life. Without mistakes, where is the art?"

Where Magid's talent lies, inarguably, is on a high physical and mental level.

In fact, he and his troupe have worked with MIT Labs in increasing the technological panache of their bowling-pin art, which Philadelphians can see for themselves in New York or online. For the first time, the brothers will go viral, streamlining a key part of their show -- "The Gamble" -- in a couple of weeks.

Couple that with other planned forays into the Internet family, and these bros in the 'hood of high-speed tech are extending their allure beyond the stage.

But at this stage, their audiences are still getting the hands-on thrill of seeing them live. And while they're at it, viewers are invited to join in by adding their own objects to the motley mix on stage.

"Scene" got into the act, too.

Juggle this: He brought a sukkah. 

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