Teatro ZinZanni 'On the Air' for last time at Pier 27 

click to enlarge High energy: Artists in Teatro ZinZanni’s “On the Air” will sing, dance, tell jokes and perform wild stunts in their antique tent through Dec. 31 on San Francisco’s Pier 27. (Courtesy photo) - HIGH ENERGY: ARTISTS IN TEATRO ZINZANNI’S “ON THE AIR” WILL SING, DANCE, TELL JOKES AND PERFORM WILD STUNTS IN THEIR ANTIQUE TENT THROUGH DEC. 31 ON SAN FRANCISCO’S PIER 27. (COURTESY PHOTO)
  • High energy: Artists in Teatro ZinZanni’s “On the Air” will sing, dance, tell jokes and perform wild stunts in their antique tent through Dec. 31 on San Francisco’s Pier 27. (Courtesy photo)
  • High energy: Artists in Teatro ZinZanni’s “On the Air” will sing, dance, tell jokes and perform wild stunts in their antique tent through Dec. 31 on San Francisco’s Pier 27. (Courtesy photo)

On Dec. 31, after more than a decade, Teatro ZinZanni is closing up shop on San Francisco’s piers 27 and 29.

Art and food lovers who haven’t yet experienced this one-of-a-kind dinner theater may want to take the opportunity to check out “On the Air,” the final show at the location.

Starring Bay Area stalwarts, blues singer Duffy Bishop and actor/clown Geoff Hoyle, this show isn’t the best ZinZanni offering of some 40 productions in 11 years. At the same time, it does offer the “love, chaos and dinner” promised in ads, and those who haven’t yet seen it may want to check out its wild mix of circus, vaudeville and fine dining in an authentic European spiegeltent on the waterfront.

In the wake of America’s Cup preparations forcing the show off the pier, ZinZanni president Norm Langill says the nonprofit troupe is working with The City to find a new location and in the process of raising $4 million needed to accommodate and move and continue operations.

As in some previous ZinZanni incarnations, “On the Air” has a loosely themed, sometimes incomprehensible story line that accompanies music, stunts and audience-participation comedy.

A constant in every show is the impeccable meal service for nearly 300, which is almost as exciting as the contortionists and acrobats. It’s no small feat getting five delicious courses (the hot ones really are hot) to so many people in a timely fashion. The wait staff, who also perform, are unsung heroes.

But what’s missing from “On the Air” is the riotous, spontaneous interactive comedy of earlier ZinZanni productions in which headliners plucked funny, not always eager folks from the audience into the spotlight — such as the ZinZanni chef making a salad on a bald man’s head.

On opening night, Hoyle, as both an old-time radio announcer, and a large-bosomed Scottish lady, got limited mileage by dancing with a few women and getting one fellow to dress up like a herring.

Seventeen musical numbers — the most successful being Bishop’s duet with guitarist Chris Carlson on “Baby You’ve Got What It Takes” — supplied the bulk of the show, which, as always, included circus stunts.

With thin, corny comedy, the performers, doing double duty, fared better with the tricks. Acrobats Andrea Conway, Elena Gatilova, Bernard Hazans, Christopher Phi, tap dancer Wayne Doba and hula hooper Matt Plendl were amazing.

Yet at three hours, “On The Air” feels long, despite valiant efforts by the enthusiastic, talented and versatile cast. In the illustrious history of Teatro ZinZanni, it should go down as the last show at Pier 27, and, one hopes, and a precursor of more crazy, tasty shenanigans in The City.

THEATER REVIEW

On the Air

Presented by Teatro ZinZanni

Where: Piers 27-29, The Embarcadero, San Francisco

When: 6 p.m. Wednesdays-Saturdays, 5 p.m. Sundays; closes Dec. 31

Tickets: $117 to $195

Contact: (415) 438-2668, http://love.zinzanni.org

About The Author

Leslie Katz

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