TEATRO ZINZANNI: LICENSE TO KISS II, A SWEET CONSPIRACY by Norm Langill – The Pier 29 Spiegeltent on the Embarcadero – San Francisco Theater Review

by Tony Frankel on November 28, 2010

in Theater-San Francisco / Bay Area

Post image for TEATRO ZINZANNI: LICENSE TO KISS II, A SWEET CONSPIRACY by Norm Langill – The Pier 29 Spiegeltent on the Embarcadero – San Francisco Theater Review


There was a moment toward the end of License To Kiss II, A Sweet Conspiracy, Teatro ZinZanni’s latest 3 and ½ hour gastronomic theatricopia (my word) when I thought, “There is nowhere else in the world that I would rather be than right here” – and with good reason.

We are seated at a table with two other couples in an antique tent from Belgium; it’s a lavish bastion of stained glass, mahogany, mirrors, red velvet and gold brocade that seats nearly 300 people in-the-round. A fantastic glass of wine accompanied my Goat Cheese, Arugula & Roasted Pear Ravioli with Roasted Butternut Squash, Walnuts and Balsamic Brown Butter Sauce (you have your choice of 3 entrees during the 5-course meal). The food was delivered by choreographed servers with roses in their teeth – brilliantly costumed in the melded styles of The Wild Wild West, Toulouse-Lautrec, Glam-Rock and an espionage thriller (Beaver Bauer is the costume designer, and Louise Dilenge, the Contessa Deluxe, oversees costumes and décor). If you think the gigantic false eyelashes on the female servers are amazing, just try to keep your eyes off of their exquisitely corseted breasts!

Entertainer extraordinaire Kevin Kent began the show as Mr. C, a pastry chef in search of the perfect dessert – his international man of mystery can only be described as the love child of Truman Capote and Colonel Klink. Later, he donned drag that could be hanging in the closet of either Marie Antoinette or The Queen of Hearts, incorporating improvisation with huge doses of love, ribaldry and dead-pan slow burns; Kent had the audience titillated when he suited up a participant in drag to hilarious effect.

All night, over seventy-five servers and entertainers merrily co-mingled with one mission in mind: your happiness. Even the Maitre D’ (Lutz Jope) is in on the act – he is a sensational clown with eyebrows that could be used as crumb catchers. It’s senseless to judge individual aspects of the multi-sensual evening; depending on your tastes, some moments work better than others. This is an extravaganza that is best recommended as a whole rather than some of its parts (how do I know if you’ll like the chicken?)

ZinZanni incorporates stock characters (á la Commedia dell’Arte) with Cirque acts, barely tied together by a thin premise – in this case, Kent’s intention to thwart anyone who would obstruct his hunt for the perfect confection of cherries and chocolate. Some of the dialogue is trite, and some of the comic timing of the buffoonery doesn’t play, but once that dessert comes flying off a Jules Verne-like contraption into the hands of a waiter who promptly sets it in front of you, all criticism melts like the liquid nirvana of the Mousse Cake.

Some segments of the evening are delectable (not to mention that Roasted Acorn Squash & Curried Apple soup). Two acts in particular will take your breath away: the gravity-defying Vertical tango pole dance of Sandra Feusi and Sam Payne, and the magical tapping of Wayne Doba. Other scenes could be super silly. As The Diva, Kristin Clayton’s lyric soprano voice seems wasted as she luxuriates in a twirling bubble bath, singing “Nobody Does it Better” to Sven (multi-talented performer and heartthrob Tobias Larsson). After dessert, however, she performs Massenet’s “Pourquoi Me Reveiller” with angelic clarity that melts your heart along with the Mousse.

Ultimately, I learned a lesson from this intermingling of lively music, outstanding talent and fine cuisine: as in life, we spend too much time analyzing individual moments, sometimes to our detriment – if we step back and see the big picture, life is indeed a bowl of (chocolate and) cherries. Teatro ZinZanni is fun, fun, fun.

tonyfrankel @ stageandcinema.com

photos by Cory Weaver

Teatro Zinzanni: License To Kiss II, A Sweet Conspiracy
scheduled to close March 6, 2011 at time of publication
for tickets, visit http://love.zinzanni.org/

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