What Goes Up

Local Arts Reviews

What Goes Up: A Banter Canter

Zachary Scott Theatre Center Whisenhunt Arena Stage,

through June 23

Running Time: 2 hrs

Banter. When confronted with an audience composed of youngsters and adults expecting to laugh a lot, you'd better be good at speaking off the cuff in a variety of styles to accommodate all. Throw in some synchronized, er, throwing -- that's juggling to you and me -- of pins, balls, hoops, enormous outer-space puff pastries, and each other, and watch the schtick stakes increase. Welcome back, then, The Flaming Idiots, masters of banter of all kinds. Gyro, Pyro, and Walter (it would be a shame to give away their real names) are practiced hands in the arts of amazement and humor. Comedically conversant while physically funny, the Idiots have 18 years of juggling and joking under their belts from Renaissance fairs to The Tonight Show to live theatres around the country. This time out, advertising "40 percent new Idiocy," the three incorporate a Sam Hurt cartoon, giant puppet limbs, and lots of audience participation for a family-friendly show guaranteed to get you on your feet and clapping.

Everyone will have his or her favorite bits. Perhaps the bologna sandwich, made by Gyro using only his feet? Perhaps Swami Walter's balloon meal? Perhaps Pyro's ultimately successful Olympic coin catch? Or maybe it's the giant puff pastry juggle? Juggling is what these guys do best, besides the banter, and in one amazing and hilarious bit, they simply wander in and out of a host of flying juggling pins, carrying on some lively conversation, as if this is something they do all the time. Ah, well, it is something they do all the time. Kids: Try this at home.

It might not be quite fair to characterize Gyro, Pyro, and Walter as "the smart one," "the klutzy one," and "the quiet one," but that is a pretty good place to start. "Klutzy" may be unfair, too, given the hilarity of the antics and observations during a Pyro drop-fest. If Pyro was having an off-afternoon, it only served to make things more funny -- maybe he was missing on purpose? Either way, Gyro does take on the lion's share of chat, Pyro seems ready to break out into white-guys-can-jump dance antics at any moment, and Walter, well, "hey," he's Walter. That the trio are clearly enjoying the hell out of playing together only makes it more engaging for those watching. And there are plenty of times when those watching wind up playing along. It's not hard to be a good sport under the tutelage of the Idiots. A woman tries the foot-made sandwich; a large man serves as Gyro's jungle gym for some flaming juggling; another man, blindfolded, falls into the arms (hopefully!) of the straitjacketed Idiots; a girl watches the daggers fly around her. And so on.

And from the start it's practically nonstop wordplay by the three, racing through routines and laughs. It's a banter canter. Time also races by, and before you know it you're on your feet applauding the Idiots.

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What Goes Up, The Flaming Idiots, Gyro, Pyro, Walter, Sam Hurt

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