The Flaming Idiots Reviewed
THE FLAMING IDIOTS: Gravity's Brain Beaux
Zachary Scott Theatre Center Kleberg Stage,
through January 14
Running Time: 2 hrs.
A screaming comes across the stage. It's the Flaming Idiots, running madcap to the edge of the audience, hopping and capering and doing terribly rhythmic and beautiful things with burning sticks. In the midst of the routine, a torch is dropped; it hits the floor like original sin; the God of Jugglers frowns in his heaven, spirits droop, and the Idiots slouch offstage. A moment passes. The Idiots enter screaming again.
And so it goes, repeating as necessary, inuring the audience to the idea of a (rarely) missed pass and, not incidentally, making that audience laugh. Finally, the complex deed is done. Bows are taken, applause is thundered. And then the show really begins.
I'm disarmed here, okay? I went to this performance expecting to be bowled over by manic hijinks and the expert manipulation of multiple objects. My expectations were surpassed. I expected to have my eyes goggled and my mind boggled by nonpareil juggling of balls and clubs and hoops and so on. And my expectations were seen and the ante was upped. With beanbag chairs, for instance.
Who would think three guys -- Gyro, Pyro, and Walter, they call themselves -- would juggle beanbag chairs? Who could envision a slo-mo ballet of leaf blowers and suspended beach balls near the rafters of Zach Scott's Kleberg stage? Who would suspect live musical accompaniment by a fierce little band that Spike Jones would have been proud of? Who could predict that some fool -- excuse me: idiot -- would balance a bicycle on his chin? And who, especially, unless they'd seen it on Leno or Letterman or wherever else it's played, who would expect a man to build a fully garnished bologna sandwich with his feet?
You'll be expecting that now, reading this, and you won't be disappointed. You can gleefully anticipate the comedy, too, knowing that the humor purveyed by this riotous triumvirate is frequently more improv-sharp than Catskills corny, that these manic tummelers juggle pop culture arcana almost as well as they prestidigitate less abstract objects, and that the parts featuring audience participation are not cringe-inducing and in fact kick the proceedings up an anxious notch or two. (So it was my own daughter who was chosen from the gathered throng for one bit; so it was she who stood -- both delighted and slightly freaked -- in the center of the stage, in the middle of a triangle of Idiots who sent horizontal cascades of knives whizzing past her blonde head; so it was she who, following instructions from idiot Gyro, kicked idiot Pyro -- kicked him hard -- whenever he dropped a knife. Should this reviewer thus recuse himself from heaping praise upon these wonderful Idiots? Hell, no.)
Go, I say to you: Go and be fully, almost fiendishly entertained. Go and watch, agog at this kinetically funny-boned spectacle, thrilled (as ever) by the lighting of Jason Amato, and see if you agree with a specific observation: that in a live-action version of that warped bit of animated brilliance known to mortals as The Tick, a certain Jon O'Connor -- Pyro, that is -- should be called upon to play the lead. It's ... uncanny.