BWW Review: Big-Top Brouhaha with Teatro ZinZanni's Revived LOVE, CHAOS & DINNER
Don't be fooled by the understated title: Teatro ZinZanni's "Love, Chaos & Dinner" is an entertainment extravaganza. Replicating the beloved environment from its former home, "Love, Chaos & Dinner" feels like a quintessential ZinZanni production, even for Teatro ZinZanni first-timers.
What does cabaret meets circus meets sketch comedy look like? A hedonistic hodge podge under a velvet tent! "Love, Chaos & Dinner" has a loose theme of a European (French, maybe?) restaurant preparing for a visit by the renowned food critic, Miss Pleasant (Rachel Nehmer of Duo Madrona). Madame ZinZanni (Ariana Savalas), owner and operator of the unnamed restaurant, pulls all the stops to make sure Pleasant's visit is satisfying. As the show unravels, each staff member reveal themselves to not be the ordinary chef, security guard, manager, janitor, etc. they appear to be. Though trying to make heads or tails of the actual storyline in "Love, Chaos & Dinner" will make one dizzy, the love stories give the acrobatics narrative depth. It's not Domitil Aillot, the circus performer, holding himself sideways fifteen feet in the air. He's playing a character whose holding himself sideways to seduce another character. It's storytelling with acrobatics, and that's way cool.
There are components that will alter your experience based on how much direct interaction audience members enjoy or crave. It's hard to be anonymous at this show: each cast member makes sure to interact with each table at least once. The interactions vary from the benign jokes made by the security guard (played by Ben Wendel) for those seated at the table to not "fork" each other, to one lucky audience member being locked in a cage by a six foot tall yodeling dominatrix (played by the powerhouse performer Manuela Horn). One thing to note is a ghostly maestro (Yevgeniy Voronin) sneaks up behind people to stroke their heads with a wire head massager. Hygienically, it's a questionable choice, on top of this polarizing sensation (some people love it, some people hate it) coming out of nowhere being such a turn-off.
It's all about expectations at "Love, Chaos & Dinner". If you know that, as an audience member, you consent to being physically touched by performers, it's not such an unpleasant shock. Never before have audience members appeared so comfortable and prepared to be volun-told for any segment of the performance; whether it be to make an orgasmic noise on-cue, describe a woman like a beer, scat harmoniously, or lift a performer up in the air and spin them around (without prompt!), no person appeared deterred by being put on the spot in front of hundreds of strangers.
As a variety show, there are cirque, burlesque, musical, dance, and comedic components. The aerial performances are especially impressive, and what one expects when going to see a show. There are three in total: a gorgeous, elegant performance on a suspended hoop by Elena Gatilova; an awe-inspiring feat of strength displayed on a frighteningly-tall pole by Domitil Aillot chef; and, best of all, a sexy trapeze performance by Duo Madrona (aka real life partners Ben Wendel and Rachel Nemer), resembling two mating leopard slugs (which, if you've never seen videos, is much more elegant and majestic than it sounds). There are impressive tin cup tricks, and performance artist Svetlana holds herself in extraordinarily tough, contorted positions.
Here's the thing: it's 2017, so maybe we should put the woman playing a doll/robot/inanimate plaything role to rest. Watching the creepy, old maestro physically prop a very young "robot waitress" in any position he wants is off-putting, at best. Plus, often the positions will be spread-eagled.
Director Joe De Paul also performs in the show, and I challenge you to find a comedian as charming. They do a great job keeping the audience engaged no matter which of the dozens of things they do in the show. Singing, sketch-comedy, slight-of-hand, you name it: De Paul is the Swiss-army entertainer.
Though, by circus standards, there are not too many surprising components to "Love, Chaos, and Dinner", but that does not make it any less of an entertaining evening, complimented by a delightful multi-course meal imagined by local chef Jason Wilson ("a Food & Wine magazine Best New Chef"). Teatro ZinZanni's "Love, Chaos, and Dinner" is a delightful spectacle, to which I give a ticked (but not mind-blown) B+/A-. "Love, Chaos & Dinner" is a classic three-ring circus served with a twist.
Teatro ZinZanni's "Love, Chaos & Dinner" performs at Marymoor Park through April 29, 2018. For tickets and information, visit them online at www.zinzanni.com.
*Update 11/17/17 3:03PM: Miss Pleasant has been properly credited to Rachel Nehmer, rather than Elena Gatilova