The Elaborate Entrance of Chad Deity

Written by Kristoffer Diazchad diety

Directed by Clive Cholerton

What a knockout play!

Reviewers have opportunity to see so much theater that seldom do they feel a pang at missing one particular opening. Now, I regret  not having seen Victory Garden’s 2009 world premiere of The Elaborate Entrance of Chad Deity, and have rectified the omission. What a terrific play! You certainly needn’t be a wrestling fan to enjoy it; you only need be a fan of innovative approach, solid plotting and fine acting.

The play was actually only my second experience of wrestling. At age 26 and in the 8th month of pregnancy, I scoffed at my over-protective mother-in-law’s warning:  “Don’t sit in the first row. The wrestlers often get tossed out and one may land in your lap.”

“Sure,” I thought. “This woman frets about everything.”

She was right; one combatant came flying over the ropes and barely missed me. We moved several rows back.  While there was no physical danger in the ringside set of Kristoffer Diaz’s brilliant and highly comic drama, plenty of provocative ideas were hurled at us over the ropes:

  • The villain controls the winner.
  • Wrestling is “the communion of two individuals doing all they can to insure neither gets hurt.”
  • Wrestling is essentially a ceremonial ritual of protection.
  • The artifice of the ring provides a vivid metaphor
  • The reality of the ring is based on the illusions of life.
  • The business of managers is to milk and reinforce society’s prejudices.
  • The rebellion of stereotypes is short lived
  • A loaf of raisin bread can become a symbol of what is important in sport as well as in life (the raisins, of course).

This unorthodox, vibrant satire on sports, business, race, politics and power in the U.S.  is narrated by Puerto Rican wrestler Mace, aka Macedonio  Guerra (Brandon Morris), who has loved wrestling, and played with his brothers and toy action figures since childhood. Video projections continually enhance his narrative. Now, in his adult connection with wrestling, his job is to make himself into a human punching bag so that the other guys look good. As he notes, “In wrestling, you can’t kick a guy’s ass without the help of he guy whose ass you are kicking.” The main person he facilitates is the less skilled but far more charismatic, flamboyant African American Chad Deity (Donte Bonner).

Chad diety-flordia production

Mace then discovers another charismatic talent in Vigneshwar Paduar (Adam Bashian), an Indian-American rock star who can speak in English, Spanish, Hindi and Urdu, and brings him to the attention of his manager, Everett Olson (Gregg Weiner).  Olson then takes over to create a new wrestling persona garbing him in Muslim robe for his role as an “Islamic terrorist,” with a lethal “Kabbalah-kick.” Ultimately, he will be slated to appear against Chad in a “Pay for View” extravaganza.

Throughout each match – and the wrestlers are amazingly skillful in execution — the audience is involved – encouraged to chant for the winners, and groan at key moments. When Mace says, “The crowd gasps” – the audience is happy to oblige.

The excellent cast is rounded out by Matthew Shaller, a professional wrestler as well as an actor, who played wrestling partners Billy Heartland and Old Glory. Kudos to the fight choreographers (who have also been wrestlers) Pablo Marquez and Dan Ackerman and to the versatile and athletic actors who were able to perform all the necessary gymnastics.

While I might not seek out future wrestling matches, I certainly plan to look for new plays by Diaz. The Elaborate Entrance of Chad Deity was deservedly on the short list of nominees for the 2010 Pulitzer Prize.

Highly Recommended

Beverly Friend

friend@oakton.edu

Caldwell Theater Company at the Count de Hoernle Theatre, 7901 Federal Hwy. Boca Raton, Fl., 33487, www.caldwelltheatre.com,  561-241-7432, tickets, $27-50 (Students $10),  runs Wednesdays through Saturday at 8  pm, Wednesdays, Saturdays and Sundays at 2 m, through Feb 12. Running time is one hour 45 minutes including a 12-minute intermission.