Review: Teatro ZinZanni Offers an Evening of Warmth and Wonder With Love, Chaos & Dinner

The crowd was silent. You could hear a pin drop. I could feel the tension bubbling around me as everyone looked up at Marie (performed by Elayne Kramer), perched on her platform in the middle of the circus tent, washed in purple and blue light. However, by “perch,” I do not mean standing or even crouching. Marie was balancing on a small, horse-shoe shaped surface with nothing but her hands.

To clarify—the crowd wasn’t silent because of her ability to do handstand. Marie was about to shoot a bow and arrow with her feet, and it’s safe to say that the audience members sitting beneath her line of fire were looking less than comfortable. As she shot her arrow, audible gasps could be heard throughout the room, and I can admit one of them came from me. The tension only heightened as everyone leaned in—anxious to see what would become of the arrow.

Contortionist Elayne Kramer in LOVE, CHAOS, & DINNER. Photo Credit: Elliot Fisher
Contortionist Elayne Kramer. Photo by Elliot Fisher.

When she made her bullseye, the room erupted in a roar of applause and cheers. Kramer stood up and completed her contortionist performance with a glowing smile, meeting her adoring fans with the confidence of one who clearly knew there was nothing to ever worry about.

Teatro ZinZanni’s Love, Chaos & Dinner is a night of jaw-dropping entertainment over a four-course dinner. Some fall into the category of cirque, such as Elayne Kramer’s contortionist performance and the stunning dance and acrobatic act from Mickael Bajazet and Vlada Romanova. Others are musicians, such as Cunio and LiV Warfield, who wowed the audience throughout the evening with solos and duets that left them wanting more.

Drawing the audience even further into the evening are the comedy performances, particularly that of Kevin Kent who plays Doily, a Drag Queen/Clown. To say that Kent knows how to win over a crowd is an understatement. As audience members are finding their way to their seats at the beginning of the show, Kent is making the rounds—getting to know them, asking questions, and ensuring that there’s a personal connection.

Comedian Kevin Kent in LOVE, CHAOS, & DINNER. Photo Credit: Elliot Fisher
Comedian Kevin Kent. Photo by Elliot Fisher.

The approach is clever, because as soon as Doily gets on stage, everything is fair game. She is unafraid to call folks out and invite them to join her. One audience member played twister, another danced with her, and others were simply thrown in the spotlight, (heavily) encouraged to participate from their cabaret tables. As one of these lucky audience members, I can say that Kent’s charisma put the room at ease. Even those (like me) who are often hesitant with audience participation felt cared for throughout the evening.

To put it simply, Teatro ZinZanni’s newest installment is a night to remember. From the moment you enter the spiegeltent, it’s hard to even know where to look. The immersive experience is a feat of wonder and based on the thunderous applause surrounding me at the end of the evening, it’s safe to say I was not alone in my assessment. If you are looking for something different and daring, Love, Chaos and Dinner will not disappoint.

Love, Chaos & Dinner runs through August 31 at Teatro ZinZanni, on the 14th floor of the Cambria Hotel at 32 W. Randolph St. Tickets run from $99 to $140 for Thursday-Sunday performances. Run time is 2 hours and 30 minutes.

For more information on this and other plays, see theatreinchicago.com.

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Lauren Katz