Dot Net Theatre Review: Pro wrestling play - The Elaborate Entrance of Chad Deity
By Will Pruett
It is so rare for me as a writer to have two worlds collide. I work in theatre as my day job. Every day I'm in rehearsals or running a show. Every day I walk into a theatre and the experiences are never quite the same. On most nights, I'm home on my couch enjoying wrestling on television. This is where I write and it is a bit of an outlet where I don't have to think of theatre (although wrestling is inherently theatrical). Upon seeing Kristopher Diaz's new play "The Elaborate Entrance of Chad Deity" I knew that my worlds had collided like never before.
The story is set in the fictional world of THE Wrestling, a promotion ran by Everett K. Olson. It focusses on Mace, a good wrestler who has been used to help other wrestlers in the company look good while never getting a chance to shine himself. He gets his opportunity when Vigneshwar Paduar comes into his life and the promotion, but rising to the top is not what he hoped it would be.
The heart of the show rests in its narrator and lead character, Macedonio Guerra (brought to life by Desmin Borges). Known in the (or THE) wrestling world as “The Mace” he is a victim of his own skill. He describes himself of being so good at making other wrestlers look good that he is always on the losing side of matches and negotiations.
This character is relied upon to set the pace and the feeling of the show. From the very beginning Macedonio Guerra is the man the audience must connect with. It is his story we are watching and his passion we must feel. Borges pulls this balance off perfectly. His energy is infectious from the beginning to the end.
The title character is the star of THE Wrestling, Chad Deity (played by Terence Archie). A Hulk Hogan-esque star that THE Wrestling is built around is charismatic, but lacks in-ring talent. Although he is the highest paid star in the promotion, he also is the most dependent on those around him. Archie is not afraid of the silly nature of his character. He pulls off cocky and confident to a tee. As many wrestlers who have come through the business, his character buys his own hype, which makes him a fun (and funny) character to watch.
Mace's world is changed by Vigneshwar Paduar, played by Usman Ally. He is a Brooklyn-based Indian man, with amazing height and the gift of gab. Paduar is brought into THE Wrestling not to be his charismatic self, but to play a Middle Eastern stereotype called "The Fundamentalist" along with his manager Che Chavez Castro (a Mexican stereotype that Mace is shoe horned into).
As Everett K. Olson, Steve Valentine shines. The character is based on WWE CEO Vince McMahon, but Valentine's portrayal captures the absurdity of McMahon's logic without actually becoming a bad impression of McMahon. Perhaps it is because his voice is so different than McMahon's, but his portrayal is completely different, but no less effective than someone attempting to actually play McMahon would be.
Rounding out the cast are two independent wrestlers turned Hollywood stuntmen named Justin Leeper and Timothy Talbott. They handle most of the in-ring work in the show, which is essentially a series of squash matches and entrances. They do the proper amount of selling. The in-ring work is not as crisp as one would see out of most wrestlers, but it is passable. They get the point across and help to create the colorful world of THE Wrestling.
Kristopher Diaz displays his amazing knowledge of both the wrestling and the theatrical worlds with this show. His script shines in the hands of capable actors, unafraid of the cartoony world that is displayed in the wrestling portions of his script. Rest assured that although you will laugh, this show also brings the drama. The final scene, along with the final line (which won't be spoiled here) will send chills down the spines of audience members.
Diaz and Director Edward Torres make sure that the audience sees the themes of the show through Mace and his discussion and dissection of how the wrestling world uses race to draw characters in very stereotypical ways. From the Iron Sheik in the 1980's to Mexican America today, this is a major issue in wrestling. Diaz pulls no punches in showing both the absurdity and the ignorance that wrestling itself shows with these characters.
The design of the show is a character unto itself. The set (designed by Brian Sydney Bembridge) consisting of four projection screens, a full size wrestling ring, a desk and a very colorful background fully illustrates the cartoony nature of the show while also emulating the look and feel of a major wrestling arena. They are extremely well complimented by the fantastically WWE-like projection design complete with entrance videos, wrestler graphics and taped promos. Finally, the sound and lights (designed by Mikhail Fiksel and Jesse Klug respectively) round out the wrestling world, giving the audience a theatrical experience that they cannot find elsewhere.
If you're a theatre fan who does not enjoy wrestling, this show will open your eyes and give you the opportunity to explore a new world. If you're a wrestling fan that does not enjoy theatre, this show will allow you to see just what live theatre is capable of and how life changing it can be. I cannot recommend this show enough. It is one of the best new plays of the last few years and more than worth the trip to Los Angeles for the opportunity to see it.
"The Elaborate Entrance of Chad Deity" is running through October 9 at the Geffen Playhouse in Los Angeles. Tickets are available at Geffenplayhouse.com . Once again, if you can make it out to see this show, you need to.
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