Teatro Zinzanni’s ‘Caliente’ delights

  • Tue Mar 6th, 2012 6:41pm

<b>REVIEW | </b>By Jackson Holtz Herald writer

“Caliente,” the latest Teatro Zinzanni show, brings some of the weighty issues of race, immigration, corporate raiding and unemployment to the century-old spiegeltent.

No, Noam Chomsky hasn’t joined the cast. It’s still Teatro Zinzanni, dinner theater in an old circus tent, but the story, directed by Ricardo Salinas of Culture Clash, deftly weaves pertinent concepts into a 3½-hour show.

“It was a great marriage,” Salinas said. “They just let me go with the idea of using a little bit of satire and a little bit of social commentary.”

Now celebrating a decade adjacent to the Seattle Center, the nonprofit Teatro Zinzanni still delivers many of the promises of love, chaos and dinner, even if Seattle celebrity chef Tom Douglas no longer writes the menu.

The story line is simple: A corporate tycoon wants to purchase the tent and convert the property into a giant shopping mall, complete with a Starbucks on every floor. To save the show, the performers, band, servers and kitchen must showcase their combined talents. And so, the evening unfolds.

Robert Lopez, known locally as the Mexican Elvis, stars alongside the madame-de-force, Christine Deaver, as the Latino version of brother-and-sister act Donnie and Marie.

Through a variety of twists (think hula hoops) and turns (imagine a Chinese acrobat dangling from a rope), the show must go on. Ann Bernard is fantastic, whirling wood blocks in time with her tap shoes in an Argentinian malambo. The French troupe Les Petit Freres is a delight to watch, with wonderful physical comedy and astonishing tumbling. Mike Greer is new to Teatro and to “Caliente,” which premiered in San Francisco. His song numbers, especially his final act, were, as one character says, “weird.”

Tickets to Teatro Zinzanni start at $106 and top out at $171. A shorter Sunday brunch matinee is a bit cheaper. That’s a pricey night out, a value balanced with the fact that a fancy, multi-course dinner is included.

What once was a superior meal has been degraded to subpar banquet fare – which isn’t fair.

On the night I saw the show, the food didn’t live up to the price tag. Our server discouraged us from ordering one of the three entree choices in the five-course menu, and the remaining two selections came with much to be desired.

The kitchen was having a bad night, I was told. Audiences should expect a fine dining experience, along with fine entertainment, officials said. If any part of the show is limp, be it asparagus or one of the acts, Teatro Zinzanni officials insist that customers let them know.

The jokes at Teatro Zinzanni need to stay where they belong, on the stage, not the dinner plate.

‘Caliente’

WHEN: Through June 10

WHERE: Teatro Zinzanni, 222 Mercer St., Seattle

TICKETS: $106-$176, available at dreams.zinzanni.org or call 206-802-0015