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Off-Broadway Review

4Play

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4Play
Photo Source: Carol Rosegg
The Flying Karamazov Brothers—Paul Magid, Mark Ettinger, Rod Kimball, and Stephen Bent—are impressive jugglers. Whether employing bowling pins, pingpong balls, hatchets, flaming torches, or tiny fresh eggs, these guys can keep objects flying through the air between them with incredible speed and precision. But you can only juggle so much in a 100-minute show before the crowd, even children, starts running for the exits. So the quartet goes for the funny. And in that I mean pie-in-the-face vaudeville comedy. Their new show "4Play" contains enough slapstick, bad jokes, music, and audience interaction to entertain even the hardest of hearts.

When it comes to comedy, these "brothers" don't joke around. They are seriously silly. Imagine the Marx Brothers in kilts. (Why four "Russians" would wear Scottish kilts is anyone's guess.) These guys work harder than anyone for a laugh. They dress up in tutus and do ballet. They make cardboard boxes into Japanese Taiko drums. They do a skit about coal miners. They juggle random objects brought in by the audience. They play a horn quartet. They sing a cappella. It's family-friendly comedy.

And mostly it works. Magid—who, besides appearing as one of the brothers, co-wrote the book with them, produced, and directed—has a nice feel for the stage. He keeps the show humming along, and the laughs come at a dizzying pace. The original music—by Ettinger, Doug Wieselman, and Howard Patterson—is raucous and fun.

At the same time, "4Play" feels like a bunch of individual bits thrown together. Some work better than others. There's not much of an overall feel or theme. Though the performers build to a big finish, the show doesn't have much of an arc to it. The proceedings are vaudevillian in the truest sense: These guys believe in the adage "No joke too old, no laugh too cheap." The audience groans at the broad comedy as much as it laughs.

But if you don't mind the lowest-common-denominator approach, you can sit back and have fun. Laugh. Relax. Enjoy. It's summer, after all.


Presented by the Flying Karamazov Brothers at the Minetta Lane Theatre, 18 Minetta Lane, NYC.Opens Aug. 9 for an open run. Wed.–Sat., 8 p.m.; Sun., 5 p.m.; Wed., Sat., and Sun., 2 p.m. (800) 982-2787 or www.ticketmaster.com.

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