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Love, Chaos, and Dinner: Teatro Zinzanni

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CultureMob.com is an events website and as such does not dip its toes into the wonderful world of le restauranteur. This is good; I love to eat almost as much as I love to dance and would no doubt wax Proustian for pages and pages on my favorite wasabi or taco truck or happy hour pizza.

However the Teatro Zinzanni is not dinner- it’s an event, where they just happen to serve up a gourmet five-course food experience along with the cirque, comedy, and cabaret. Dinner is intertwined with the performance, and the whimsical and dreamlike nature of the evening makes you feel like you are an essential element of the circus troupe and will be leaving on their gypsy caravan right after dessert with the rest of the clowns and acrobats. Before you even realize it the show has begun; as you order wine and chit chat with your date you notice that quietly the actors have infiltrated the floor and are slowly wandering between the tables, straightening forks and being freaks.

The Teatro itself (in it’s new location in Lower Queen Anne) is actually a 18th-century antique cabaret tent brought over from Belgium specifically for the Teatro Zinzanni, and you definitely want to arrive early so you can cruise the sweet boutique and try on all manner of feathery and sequined caps, sexy cat-eye masks, gaudy baubled necklaces, dark velvet capes, rhinestone tiaras, rainbow boas, and satin top hats. Properly glittered-up and adorned you can now make your way over to the bar for an aperitif, take a picture with your friends dressed like a vaudeville performer, or get your face painted with sparkly swirls. An evening like no other is about to begin.

You are shuffled into the circular interior of the theater that is filled with all manner of tingle-making things and people, dripping with all the atmosphere of an Old World burlesque revue from the craziest dream you ever had. On acid. In the Middle Ages. You halfway expect to see monkeys jump out of the ceiling and start tap-dancing on your table with the silverware and napkins.

The new Teatro Zinzanni show is called “Quest for a Queendom” in which the stooge-licious Queen Wilma of fantasyland Zinzannia searches high and low for a suitable beau. You get to laugh along with her and dazzle at the acrobats, clowns, and aerialists. The seats in the middle of the floor are the best, of course, although here you run the risk of participation in the show itself; in other words the Queen might choose you to inspect for a possible courtship. And she is one picky woman (though really aren’t we all?).

Each of the five courses was an amazing lip trip, starting with a chevre/fig/cracker/melon amuse-bouche. Next up was a luscious fire roasted tomato and red pepper soup served with a dollop of avocado cream, its consistency hovering somewhere between pureed and chunky and heaven. The summer salad included crunchy green beans and multicolored tomatoes under a zesty vinaigrette, and my main course was the grilled wild-caught albacore tuna with a smoked paprika crust- another divine encounter. Follow this up with a caramelized peach tart dotted with blueberries and black coffee, drench it all in a couple of bottles of red wine and you have a dinner fit for a queen and her king, if she can find one. With the amazing spectacle happening all around, Teatro Zinzanni could skimp on the food quality and you probably wouldn’t notice- but this was one of the best chi-chi dinners I have had in a while! And did I mention I love to eat?

All the performers are amazing; some are hilarious, some are buffoons, some are stupidly talented gymnasts, and some are just freaks. I particularly enjoyed Les Castors (the Parisian acrobats) and the Chinese strap aerialists. It could have been the wine or the thirteen years of gymnastics classes in my past, but every time I see aerialists twirling and hanging from the ceiling I think, “I could do that!” Is it too late to run off (to Queen Anne) and join the circus?

Stealing the show for sure was the Queen’s manservant Manchester and his unwieldy brocade codpiece. Played by Seattle’s own Kevin Kent, Manchester is a hilarious not-so-straight man that takes care of the bumbling Queen during her quest. His smart-ass comments and spot-on facial expressions keep the whole show rolling, as well as the audience; you will walk out wishing you had a manservant named Manchester to keep you on task, crack jokes, and embarrass everyone around you.

The Teatro Zinzanni is an experience unique in this world; only Seattle and San Francisco have the pleasure of this performance, a crazy dreamland where they entertain you and feed you and send you back out into the real world with sparkles in your eyes and a smile on your face. The audience interaction is one of the best facets of the evening, and whether they are painting your face or encouraging you to slow dance along with the actors, you are part of the show. You leave having been dipped in the culture of Zinzannia- and it tastes delicious! 

Quest for a Queendom runs through October 19 every Wednesday through Sunday evening and the experience is one that will never be forgotten, even after all that wine.