Teatro ZinZanni -- Dinner At Wotan’s
Dining with the Norse gods turns out to be a pretty good way to spend an evening if Teatro ZinZanni's current production of "Dinner at Wotan's" is any indication. Teatro ZinZanni provides an evening of circus meets dinner theater, which provides fun for a date night or any celebration.
"Dinner at Wotan's" is based on stories from Norse mythology. At the beginning of the show, the cast informs us in song that we've arrived at Valhalla in time for Ragnarok, the twilight of the gods when the world comes to an end. Three dwarves, Snorta, Hardon and Kimir (played by the group Los Excentricos), are our musically inclined clowning companions who guide us through the story, which contains bits of various myths all rolled into one.
The interweaving of various tales, using ancient and modern themes, is one of the clever and charming parts of the show. As a nod to Wagner's "Ring Cycle," we get Brunnhilde the Valkyrie, played by lyric soprano Kristin Clayton, whose voice soars in pieces pulled from the opera. But she's not afraid to come down to earth and climb into a giant bubble bath while being serenaded by Thor (Tobias Larsson) and the rest of the male pantheon singing "Every Bath You Take" to the tune of Sting's famous number.
The juxtaposition of the dramatic with the absurd is a hallmark of the evening. When all the gods first appear and are introduced to us, Fricka (Anki Albertsson), Wotan's wife introduces Wotan (Geoff Hoyle) with much fanfare and we see the shadow of a great helmeted figure approach behind a curtain.
When the curtain is pulled, Wotan's mother (also played by Geoff Hoyle) in sensible shoes and a housedress is there instead. She pulls two people out from the audience, appoints them soup virgins complete with fake blonde braids, and does a little dance with them around the soup tureen.
But there are just as many pieces that make the audience catch its collective breath in wonder. Jorgemon (Christopher Phi) performs a gorgeous piece combining dance, contortion and hand balancing. Terry Crane as Loki displays all the god's fiery energy and cunning in a stupendous aerial performance. Ballerina Ariana Lallone as Freya combines pointe work with aerial dance. And Balder (sic) and Helga's aerial dance by Vertical Tango (Sam Payne and Sandra Feusi) was a stunning highlight.
The clever use of music is worth a mention. Norman Durkee composes and Martha Davis is the lyricist for the production, with the band under the musical direction of Hans Teuber. The music alternates between soul-stirringly lifting and outrageously silly, with plenty of sly little nods to other pieces.
When Wotan pulls out an audience member to play Fenrir the wolf, we get Prokofiev's "Peter and the Wolf." Los Excentricos, our group of clowning dwarves, add to the musical excellence in their own way with silly but technically amazing performances on cowbells or harmonica gloves.
Teatro ZinZanni is understandably proud of the rare Belgian mirrored Spiegeltent, warm with red velvet and beautiful woodwork, within which the performances take place. The surroundings feel rich and comfortable from the moment you walk in, and the staff works hard to create an atmosphere of conviviality. They encourage dressing up and provide a gift shop where you can shop for feathers and baubles in case you forgot your own.
In the tradition of dinner theater everywhere, a set five-course meal is served over the length of the evening, interspersed with dramatic vignettes which either serve to move the main story line, or to distract the audience from necessary business while either food or performance space is being prepared.
The food was quite delicious with the exception of an apple tart whose only fault was to be a little nondescript. My partner enjoyed the wine flight matched with the meal and gave it high marks for the combinations.
The food is served by a bevy of performing wait staff who dance the various courses in and who are adept at maneuvering in tight quarters and ducking down so as not to disrupt the view of the performance. While I wasn't fond of the apple tart itself, the manner of its appearance on the scene was quite fun: one performer slid each plate down a slide to be caught mid-air by another.
Founder and artistic director Norm Langill has a charming and thoroughly enjoyable show on his hands. "Dinner at Wotan's" makes for a special and memorable night out.
"Dinner at Wotan's" runs through May 12 at Teatro ZinZanni, 222 Mercer St. in Seattle. For info or tickets, call 206-802-0015 or visit www.zinzanni.org.