Jumpin' Dostoievskies - the Flying Karamazov Brothers are back, and the Vivian Beaumont Theater has caught them in its Lincoln Center safety net.
To begin with there are, however, a number of widespread misconceptions about the Flying Karamazov Brothers - spread widely by themselves - that I would now like finally to clear up.
The first is that they do not fly. Untrue! They do. Each of them has a small propeller sticking out of the pod at the stem of his neck.
But they do not fly on stage - for fear of frightening the horses.
Then there is the conception that they are not brothers. Untrue! They are in fact half-brothers...their mother, Maria Karamazova, a plumber by occupation, commuted between Omsk, Tomsk, and Streatham, a suburb of London, England, hence the fraternal confusion.
Finally there is the idea that they are jugglers. Untrue! They are removal men - and if you look closely you will see their truck parked outside the Vivian Beaumont.
Like all removal men, they took up juggling as a hobby, and nowadays between removal gigs they occasionally appear in public - but (note this) on a significantly bare stage. They have actually removed the furniture - and sometimes have to be forcibly prevented from starting on the seats.
The show they are offering is just the same as they gave on Broadway a few years ago - even up to the jokes - but being generous I thought I'd give them a different notice.
The playbill describes the show as Juggling & Cheap Theatrics, but, of course, it exaggerates. One of the Brothers himself comes far closer to the nubby nub of the presentation when he describes it as "a mixture of sex and violence, without the sex."
These five self-styled jugglers and cheapo-theatricals are, in fact, as deft and as daft as ever. Their self-imposed recipe of good juggling and bad jokes is irresistible to Karamazov addicts such as myself.
I think they have a touch of genius to them - but, of course, their Mother has hired me to over-praise them madly, and the next time I move they have promised to shift the furniture free, as well as teaching me some handy tricks with meat cleavers.
What is their show like? Well it is like this. Whenever it is not like this, it is like that.
They throw odd inanimate objects in oddly animated fashions. They never throw tantrums. But they see a connection between music and juggling - and use rhythm to go for the jugular.
They are very good, very funny and very kind to animals - especially flying fish. Don't take my word for it. Ask their mother!
Incidentally, this is the way Gregory Mosher, Bernard Gersten and their Lincoln Center Theater have chosen to reopen their main stage this season. It is called juggling the books - and, as such things stand at present should probably be eligible for a special city subsidy.
The Flying Karamazov Brothers can juggle anything - tenpins, meat cleavers, bons mots and bad puns - and any two hours in their company is bound to be life-threatening as well as laugh-inducing. As they say, ''There is only one edge of a sickle one can catch - more than once.'' At that point, the front row of the audience cringes. Theatergoers may also cringe at some of the word-bending wisecracks, but it would be difficult not to be disarmed by this team of hirsute, mock-Russian zanies, related only in their all-out assault on collective sobriety.
The five flying fools - Timothy Daniel Furst, Paul David Magid, Randy Nelson, Howard Jay Patterson and Sam Williams - have landed at the Vivian Beaumont Theater. The new Lincoln Center theater management is quick to disclaim the engagement as the re-opening of the main stage under its aegis. The Karamazov vaudeville is identified as a sideshow. The real re-opening will come later this month when the Karamazovs trade stages with John Guare's ''House of Blue Leaves,'' now in the smaller downstairs Mitzi E. Newhouse Theater.
For the nonce - and for the nonsense - the Karamazovs are in residence with their aptly entitled traveling variety show, ''Juggling and Cheap Theatrics.'' Those who caught earlier versions of the act at the Brooklyn Academy of Music or on Broadway will know what to expect. Others may be taken aback by the troupe's iconoclastic antics. Nothing is hallowed, not even the art, as it were, of juggling.
At a weekend matinee, with theatergoers, many of them children, filling the seats and lining the apron of the thrust stage, the scene looked like a Bedouin bazaar, an image that was embellished by the performers' voluminous, pajama-like costumes. The stage itself was soon awash with the detritus of the juggling game.
Early on, the Karamazovs solicited items to be used in their trademark challenge juggling. From an array that included one child's eager contribution of a library book (better juggled than read), three ''objects'' were chosen by vote of the audience: a telephone, a fish and a mold filled with Jell-O. The juggler managed to twirl the phone, but he floundered with the fish - and Jell-O, held upside down, falls to the floor with a plop.
In this and other ways, the Karamazovs challenge gravity - and gravity sometimes wins. Mistakes are part of the fun, and the Karamazovs are unabashed recoverers. Nothing discourages them, not even their own badinage (they need help in that department). Some of the comments are blunt instruments. Others have a cutting edge, as in the reference to ''our acting President.''
Since their last stopover in New York, the Karamazovs have traveled the globe and have become movie actors (typecast as jugglers in ''The Jewel of the Nile''). They work their big-screen stint into the show, playing one routine as if they are movie makers on location. Unnervingly, a volunteer from the audience becomes the target of a juggling dodge.
Musicians as well as clowns, the five reprise the number in which they tunefully bounce tenpins on musical instruments; the result is a suite for juggle drums. The show lags in both acts - is there a director in the house? - but the nimble Karamazovs always remember to take their legerdemain lightly. From ''Danton's Death'' through the Scottish tragedy, the Lincoln Center theater has often been beleaguered. Juggling and joking, the Flying Karamazov Brothers banish the Beaumont blues.