Dangling Family

Two Teatro ZinZanni artists serve up comedy in midair.

Teatro ZinZanni is meticulous when it comes to hiring its waitstaff. Potential employees must go through dance and improvisation auditions, as well as have excellent communication and service skills. Somehow, Yogi Mohr and Sabine Maier got hired anyway. During a typical evening's performance, Yogi flits from table to table, meticulously moving a fork over by an inch, then changing his mind and returning it to its original position. His overcompensation is balanced only by Sabine's complete apathy. When she sees an empty glass, she grudgingly pours in a drop or two of water, then walks away. If she's feeling particularly generous, she may come back and provide two more. Their service is far worse than anything you'd find dining during the graveyard shift at a 24-hour greasy spoon. Of course it's a guise. Sabine and her husband Yogi are actually Die Maiers, a comedic trapeze duo from Berlin. It's easy to be duped by them in TZZ's current production, Quest for a Queendom, because they look nothing like the musclemen or wispy women who typically make up the circus world. Sabine gave birth to the couple's third child just a couple of years ago. Yogi is a gangly man who looks a lot like my junior-high math teacher. So it's surprising as hell when these seemingly regular folks in their 40s begin swinging from ropes like superheroes. "We look normal," Yogi says, grinning. "We don't even go to the gym. We just do warmups and practice our routine." Yet the highlight of Die Maiers' act is not their physical strength but their ability to incorporate circus and comedy. They began developing their quirky waiter and waitress characters 20 years ago while studying at École Sans Filet, a prestigious circus skills and performing arts school in Brussels. At the time, traditional big-top-style circuses were diminishing in popularity in Europe and being replaced by more sophisticated efforts like Cirque de Soleil. "We wanted to incorporate adult entertainment into the circus and make it exciting for everyone," Sabine explains. "The characters we play are just as important as the trapeze act. It's a newer, more entertaining form of circus." But the Die Maiers don't exude the sensuality so prevalent in the acts featured in Cirque de Soleil (or ZinZanni, for that matter). Instead, they're playful and impish, their routine peppered with physical humor and a running gag that's like a human version of Pepé le Pew and Penelope Pussycat. When Yogi's character isn't worrying about table aesthetics, he's gazing adoringly at Sabine. The smitten waiter dances, juggles, and lip-synchs to Prince's "Kiss" to get her attention. Sabine's waitress is unimpressed and rebuffs him. The chase continues even when the two are dangling upside down 24 feet above the floor. As Yogi grasps Sabine's wrists so she can somersault through the air, he also gallantly attempts to keep her skirt from falling so the audience can't see her underwear. The unappreciative waitress looks as though she's considering jumping to get away from him. Offstage, Sabine and Yogi get along far better than their characters. They live with their three children in a pre-furnished home near Alki Beach, provided by TZZ. And despite enjoying their four-month stint in Seattle, the eccentric couple look forward to returning to their Berlin home. "We have a trapeze in our kitchen," Sabine says. "We can't always control our housing situation when we are traveling, but we made sure to get our own home with very high ceilings." ehobart@seattleweekly.com

 
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