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Originally published August 22, 2014 at 6:16 AM | Page modified August 22, 2014 at 10:00 AM

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Voronin steps out of the mist to return to Teatro ZinZanni

Teatro ZinZanni’s current dinner-theater show, ‘When Sparks Fly,’ features that silent-comedy illusionist extraordinaire, Voronin.

Seattle Times theater critic

Performance Review

‘When Sparks Fly’

Through Sept. 21. Teatro ZinZanni, 222 Mercer St., Seattle; ticket prices vary (206-802-0015 or


Maybe it’s the prominent equine profile, with the noble nose that goes on for miles.

Or the spooky half-lidded eyes and slick-backed hair, giving him the look of a great-great-grand-nephew of Dracula.

Surely it is the exquisitely impassive gaze, the masterful sneer and the expert but almost nonchalant feats of illusion. All of this makes it difficult to take your eyes off Yevgeniy Voronin (whose stage name is simply Voronin, or The Master), whenever he’s prowling the antique cabaret tent in a Teatro ZinZanni show.

The Ukrainian-born Voronin has long been an elegantly sinister and silently comic presence in many a ZinZanni production in Seattle and San Francisco. (He’s actually appeared in 23 of them.)

But until the current TZ show, “When Sparks Fly” (which runs through Sept. 21), I don’t recall this agile and imposing magician as the outright star of a gilded evening of ZinZanni-style dinner, circus and variety hall derring-do in Seattle.

One could only wish there was more of him, even on this occasion.

Voronin skulks elegantly around his dinner-theater “lab” in the first half of “When Sparks Fly,” in which he is a kind of vampiric prince of legerdemain whose obedient minions speak of and attend to him with awe. But it isn’t until after the salad portion of the five-course supper, which comes with the price of admission, that the creative sparks really start flying in his domain.

The maestro likes to putter with the DNA of magic, and his personal menagerie includes an enchanted, sexy cat who has become a slinky contortionist (Elena Gatilova), a hilariously dense Frankenstein monster and his fright-wigged, opera-singing fiancé (Ben Wendel and Kristin Clayton), and an ancient housekeeper (Dreya Weber) who keeps everyone in line — and suddenly casts off whatever spell she’s under, transforming into a flame-haired aerialist thrilling the crowd with her gymnastic dexterity. (Weber, it should be noted, has also created airborne choreography for Pink, Madonna, Katy Perry and other intrepid pop divas.)

Also on their game is the Seattle-based trapeze duo Dos Madrona (Wendel and Rachel Nehmer), in one of their most sensuous and dexterous acts yet. Meanwhile, ZinZanni regular Joe DePaul’s comic routines range from tiresome (his muggy King Kong bit), to ingratiating (when he’s flirting sweetly with a gal plucked from the audience).

But the one who gives “When Sparks Fly” its ambience and demento charm is Voronin. In cape and top hat, he tosses off illusions and sleight-of-hand small and large with deadpan bravado and conjures a love object for himself — a doll-like puppet (Svetlana) whose transformation turns into a nifty Gothic trick.

In the universe of magic and circus prowess, inventing a distinctive character and refining and embellishing it over years, is the mark of a master performer. Perhaps the highest compliment we can bestow on Master Voronin: His stage persona is like none other, and it is always a treat to make his bizarre acquaintance.

Misha Berson:

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