Teatro ZinZanni's Circus Tent

Review: Teatro ZinZanni’s Love, Chaos & Dinner Does Not Disappoint

Teatro ZinZanni's Circus Tent
Inside Teatro ZinZanni’s Spiegeltent. (Teatro ZinZanni)

Teatro ZinZanni’s dinner theatre show’s name is also the same phrase they use to describe their shows. Love, Chaos and Dinner is a healthy mix of hilarious humor and beautiful performances and the food is pretty wonderful too. The large ensemble cast interacts with guest within the Spiegeltent before the show. They mix and mingle with the dining staff and often act incognito so that until the show actually begins, you may not be aware who all is performing in the show.

Frank Ferrante (Chef Caesar) and Amelia Zirin-Brown (Lady Rizo)

Featuring a live, albeit small, orchestra, Love, Chaos and Dinner is led by two larger-than-life characters: Frank Ferrante and Amelia Zirin-Brown. Outside of Teatro ZinZanni, Ferrante has performed as Groucho Marx over 2,500 times and the influence shows as he plays Chef Caesar for night. Performing as Lady Rizo, Zirin-Brown is a comedienne and singer. She’s one powerhouse of a singer alternating between musical numbers of yesteryear and more modern rock ballads.

Throughout the night, both Caesar and Lady Rizzo take time to call members of the audience to come forth and be teased. And they both flirt with everyone. While their style of teasing is similar, Caesar’s comes off as playful while Lady Rizo’s breathy lines and raunchy one-liners comes across a bit harsh and off-putting. Don’t get me wrong, she is very talented with an incredible voice and the two work very well with their “Martini Time” bit, but by herself, she is a bit much.

Chef Jason Wilson

The entertainment happens in between the four course dinner which includes salad, soup, four main course choices and dessert by James Beard Award-winning Chef Jason Wilson. I highly recommend the Grilled Washington Sirloin as it was cooked to perfection and just about melted in my mouth. (Click here to see the full menu.) A variety of appetizers, wines, hard liquor and soft drinks are on hand as well.

Top Row: The Anastasini Brothers and Elena Gatilova
Middle Row: Tim Tyler, Duo Rose and Joe De Paul
Bottom Row: Domitil Aillot and Kelly Brit

Each night of performances runs about three hours, but the time will fly by and a good time will be had my all. From the elegant acrobatic acts to the chaos that comes with dessert, every moment is full of surprises. Performing during Love, Chaos and Dinner include:

The Anastasini Brothers
Some people can juggle balls, but can you juggle your sibling? Fabio and Giuliano Anastasini are making their circus-performing parents proud with their body juggling act. The entire act is great but the finale is nothing short of breathtaking. The concept is simple – one brother lays on his back while he hurls his brother in the air with his feet.

Kelly Britt
Hailing from Chicago, Kelly Britt has performed opera and musical theatre throughout the Midwest and west coast, but what makes her a fit for Teatro ZinZanni is her family’s over 300 years of circus performing! Perhaps though her greatest talent is her smile. While I’m not usually a fan of opera, she is truly charming in this show.

Joe De Paul and Tim Tyler
Canadian actor and clown, Joe De Paul is one of my favorites and was so glad to see some of his signature acts again at Teatro ZinZanni. His laughter is contagious. Just wait until he brings out his film projector as you’ll see something you’ve never seen before. Joe is very short and Tim Tyler is a bean pole (his words) so the contrast of these two is fantastic. They both have a similar style of humor and they complement each other rather nicely. Going by the stage of Mr. P.P., Tim is a jack of all trades when it comes to performing. The Australian can sing, play the ukulele and make ping pong balls appear out of his mouth at random times.

Duo Rose
Samuel and Sylvia present a romantic trapeze act that is truly spectacular. The pair have been performing together since 2007 have created every aspect of their act from the costumes to the “aerial ballet” completely on their own. They are amazingly flexible and their performance is what I would call tastefully sensual.

Elena Gatilova
World champion rhythmic gymnast, Elena performed with Cirque du Soleil in Las Vegas performing in over 2,500 shows. She has a great time playing a silly and unglamorous character before performing her solo act. There she comes alive with grace and elegance. It is truly the most beautiful act of the show.

Domitil Aillot
French artist Domitil Aillot usually performs on the Chinese Pole performing acrobatic feats. For the performance I attended, he was part of the group, but didn’t perform solo which I can only assume was because he had become injured recently. I have seen him perform many times in the past and I can attest that he is pretty amazing.

Love, Chaos and Dinner performs every night Tuesday-Sunday through June 30, 2019. Click here for ticket information and more.

Review: ‘Kim’s Convenience’ is a Refreshing Change at Taproot

Lia Lee and James Yi. (Photo: Robert Wade/Taproot Theatre)

From stage to TV and back to stage again. That is the journey of Kim’s Convenience, a Canadian Korean comedy. Created by Ins Choi, this play was published in 2012, was first performed in a few local theatres then a TV version of the play premiered on CBC in October 2016. In July of 2018, the show became known internationally when the show debuted on Netflix. In January of this year, the TV started its 4th season. Finally, this week the play made its U.S. debut at Taproot Theatre.

Co-directed by Scott Nolte (founder of Taproot) and David Hsieh (founding artistic director of ReAct Theatre), Kim’s Convenience is a breath of fresh air at Taproot. It is one of the few plays that have been co-directed here, it features five actors making their Taproot Theatre debut and there is some Korean speaking and singing performed (without subtitles!) as well. The play is also very funny while having a lot of heart too. (Don’t worry, the Korean language is only minimal and you don’t need to know what they are speaking to understand what they are saying.

In a way, Kim’s Convenience is sort of like TV’s All in Family with Mr. Kim (James Yi) taking the role of Archie Bunker. Mr. and Mrs. Kim (Annie Yim) are first generation immigrants to Canada who purchased a convenience store when Mrs. Kim was pregnant with daughter Janet. Now 30 years later, Mr. and Mrs. Kim, also known as Appa and Umma (dad and mom) are beginning to think it might be time to retire. Appa begins to have an interest in passing on the store down to Janet (Lia Lee) while Janet is more interested in getting to know Alex (Obadiah Freeman) an old family friend.

Janet also wants to break free from Appa and Umma and pursue her budding career as a photographer. Her brother, Jung (Parker Kennedy) already did – by getting in trouble and getting kicked out by Appa.

Alex (Obadiah Freeman), Appa (James Yi) and Janet (Lia Lee) in “Kim’s Convenience.
(Photo: Robert Wade/Taproot Theatre)

Though still steeped in tradition, Appa likes to think of himself as a modern man who knows all of hip lingo the kids in the neighborhood are talking about. He fancies himself as to knowing who might be a shopper and who might be a “stealer” just by looking at them. He’s more preoccupied by the Japanese cars parked in the no-parking zone near his shop while his daughter reminds him that not everyone who drives a Japanese brand of car is actually Japanese. He’s a stubborn man who treats his adult daughter like a child and when it comes to Jung, he’d rather change the subject.

Kim’s Convenience is a very fun play with a lot of heart and a pretty simple plot. It’s a bit shorter than Taproot’s usual productions and its performances do not offer an intermission. You won’t need it though. Just when you think it’s time for a break, the actors are making their bows. Rest assured, you’ll get your money’s worth of laughs.

Although we might not be able to relate to some of the Kim family’s ways of doing things, we can relate with their family life. They laugh, fight and make up with each other, just like the rest of us.

This play wouldn’t be half as good without James Yi. He’s played the part before, so he’s a master at playing Appa. His comedic timing is good and Lia Lee makes for a great sparring partner. You’d swear that they are related in real life. Obadiah Freeman also does a fine job taking on not one, but four roles for play, each character completely different from the others. It’s very impressive.

On the other end of the spectrum is Parker Kennedy who comes across a little rough in his role. Unlike Lee whose acting seems natural, Kennedy’s is a bit forced. However he does have some nice interactions with Annie Yim’s Umma character. She’s a loving mother and doting wife and even though her son disappoints her some, her love is still apparent as she encourages him to make things right with this father.

As always, Mark Lund’s scenic and sound design is impressive. When you walk in, the convenience store on stage looks like it open for business and you’d be tempted to go up to grab a snack. Perhaps that is why there was an usher at the front of the stage before the show began when I went to make sure audience members didn’t do just that.

Kim’s Convenience is fairly family-friendly too, but be forewarned that there is some swearing, which surprised me somewhat. You don’t usually hear much swearing at a Taproot Theatre play and it didn’t add anything to the story either. Taproot recommends the play for those age 14 and up.

Kim’s Convenience continues through June 22, 2019. Tickets range from $27-$50 (depending on the performance date and time) and can be purchased online or by calling the box office at 206.781.9707. Taproot Theatre is locate at 204 N. 85th St., Seattle, WA 98103.