The Passing Zone entertains Geneseo with juggling feats

Performing for a full house in Wadsworth Auditorium on Saturday March 24 might have been cause for jugglers Jon Wee and Owen Morse of The Passing Zone to drop the ball on their act, but they kept their cool and thoroughly entertained this Siblings’ Weekend’s audience.

Immediately, Wee and Morse threw away everyone’s expectations – sorry, no more puns – by introducing their act as a mixture of comedy and juggling. And joke they did, their constant commentary running from corny to self-deprecating, and sometimes even clever.

But that’s no insult: During their first performance at Geneseo in 15 years, the two entertainers passed off almost every joke with a knowing wink and nudge, playing with the idea of comedy as much as the punch lines themselves. Junior Oliver Horowitz described their constant banter as “pretty meta,” and I couldn’t agree more.

And these two certainly are more than acquainted with comedy: In their 18 years of performance, they’ve opened for Bill Cosby and “Weird Al” Yankovic and were featured on Penn and Teller’s “Sin City Spectacular.”

The audience – a good mix of parents, younger siblings and Geneseo students – wasn’t there for comedy, however. As advertised, they attended to see some juggling. And chainsaws. But mostly the juggling.

They picked a good pair to see. Holders of several Guinness World Records and 18 gold medals from the International Jugglers’ Association, The Passing Zone certainly know how to throw some things up in the air … and then catch them again.

That might be, however, a bit of a simplification of the pair’s incredibly entertaining act. Beginning with a bowling ball, they led the auditorium in a master class in kicking it up a notch. Over the course of their two-hour act, the objects went as small as a rubber band (a particularly clever trick), to as large and dangerous as a chainsaw dance set to classical music. Sometimes the bits were simple, such as when Wee threw and caught two ping-pong balls in his mouth, and others were complicated as all get-out, in particular a trick involving a nonvolunteer audience member, six sickles, seven burning torches and four spinning plates.

The Passing Zone led the crowd in their two-man vendetta against gravity with the sheer force of their combined personalities, even blowing off every seeming mistake with a quick one-liner. At least in my case, the pair completely disregarded whatever expectations I had. All in all, it was an unexpectedly refreshing performance.