Dare to Dream

Of great food and fantastic theater at Teatro ZinZanni.

You know what they say about houseboats? Not a good house, not a good boat. The same is usually true of dinner theater—with the startling exception of the Dinner & Dreams show, back with its original cast for a limited run at Teatro ZinZanni through May 30. The theater is delectable, and the dinner is entertainment in itself—a five-course extravaganza prestidigitated into existence by Tom Douglas. There is a certain festive quality in the presentation, appropriate to the setting—a classy yet gaudy antique Belgian circus tent—as if Douglas, whose Dahlia Lounge and Palace Kitchen already evince a certain theatrical flair, felt inspired to let his thespian freak flag fly. The waiters certainly do: They say all waiters are frustrated actors, but not at Teatro ZinZanni, where food and theatrical fantasy are one. Mediterranean in flavor, the feast starts with oregano yogurt cheese, spicy carrot purée with pita, olives, and salty walnuts, followed by a zesty red pepper soup with pan-fried butter beans. The Greek salad does not skimp on charred onion and feta, and the entrée is the star of the show: tyropita (phyllo triangles stuffed with spinach, feta, and ricotta cheese) accompanied by pilafi me revithia (risotto with chickpeas, cinnamon, and tomatoes) or Alaskan halibut with shrimp, minted snap peas and garlic fried potatoes. (Go for the halibut, I'd say.) Dessert is a white chocolate mousse dome shaped like the tent above, only with a chocolate coconut cookie crust instead of a wooden floor and tangy raspberry coulis instead of applauding, guffawing theatergoers. There's an ample wine list, but I'm glad I went for the $32 Taste of Washington wine flight, one glass to go with each of the five dinner courses. Except for the starter, Cascade Cliffs' 2002 Barbera rosé, made from a (justly) oft-neglected grape, every glass was a perfect match, from Chateau Ste. Michelle's 2001 Cold Creek chardonnay to the smoky, pungent Columbia Winery 1999 Red Willow Reserve syrah to the Tefft Cellars 2001 black muscat ice wine. The basic problem with dinner theater is that the rhythms of food delivery distract from stage antics. At Teatro ZinZanni, the whole place is a stage, including your seat. Cunningly, winningly, the troupe incorporates the briskly efficient whisking of plates into the more-than-five-course repast of entertainment. The improvisatory, Eastern European tunes noodle on under the genius direction of bushy-bearded Norman Durkee at the keyboard, knitting all moods into one and goosing each movement at just the right moment. The performers are as good as anybody on any legit stage in the city. Doloréze Lèonard is Madame ZinZanni, your basic bossy, faux-French circus ringmistress. Clowns Toly, Charly, and Eddy Castor juggle as skillfully with their feet as most do with both hands—and trust me, it's funnier with feet. The sexily svelte contortionist Svetlana is a credit to her alma mater, the Kiev State Circus School. Sergiy Krutikov makes an impressive juggling Ukrainian sailor, and L.A. Comedy Store vet Peter Pitofsky is a strongman capable of swallowing his own face. Francine Reed, the Chanteuse, is a no-kidding blues star; Juliana Rambaldi, the Diva, a no-kidding opera star. Rie Taki's Kissing Fairy brings the floating world of Kabuki Japanese theater into the tomfoolery. The trapeze artists Duo Artemiev flip around so impressively, you only slightly fear they're going to crash-land in your lap. Michael Davis' Chef Tad Overdone commits wisecracks (of a half-Lab, half–pit bull pooch: "He may tear your leg off, but he'll bring it back") and induces audience members to juggle splattery objects. Weirdest and wonderfullest of all is Voronin, also Kiev-schooled. He is whitefaced, world-weary, like a Samuel Beckett clown, looking down his enormous nose at the universe prior to exiting each scene with a dismissive toss of fluttery blossoms. He's funny and eerie. "Ladies and chentlemen!" announces Madame. "Life is not a dress rehearsal! Bite into every moment!" No better place to do so than Teatro ZinZanni. tappelo@seattleweekly.com 6:30 p.m. Thurs.–Sat., 5:30 p.m. Sun. Teatro ZinZanni, 2301 Sixth Ave., 206-802-0015, dreams.zinzanni.org. $109 Satuday evenings, $89 all other nights. BELLTOWN.

 
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