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A CurtainUp DC Review
The Elaborate Entrance of Chad Deity
Diaz wrestles with some big themes: capitalism, fundamentalism, truth. When we purchase or watch something what are we buying into? Is wrestling an art or entertainment? Are we, the audience, willing to go along with the fictional fight that a wrestling match entails?
Chad Deity (Shawn T. Andrew in a stereotypical performance) is a wrestling superstar dressed in gold, although it is generally agreed that he has little talent. Never mind, he’s made it, big time, and is in love with who he is: a Big Name, living the American dream. He even owns a refrigerator with more crispers than he needs.
Deity’s foil is Mace, played with enormous energy and pathos by the talented José Joaquin Pérez. As the kid from “de Bronx” he is smaller than the other wrestlers but the punch he packs is one of honesty. He just want to do a good job even though he knows his job is to lose to the so-called winner, to make others look good. Perez, who acts as narrator, holds the show together, even when stepping out of character to ask the audience to “work with him.”
As EKO, (Michael Russotto,) the wrestling company’s well-dressed and coiffed chief honcho, a character with no redeeming qualities, who steps into the ring only to further the fiction of his players in order to increase ticket sales. He’ll stop at nothing to make a buck.
Rounding out the cast are Adi Hanash as VP, a dark-skinned wrestler of Indian descent, who at EKO’s insistence, passes for a generic terrorist/fundamentalist. At least his costume of turban, wrap and a belt of explosives, are not as humiliating as the sombrero and fake mustache Mace, re-named for this bout Che Chavez Castro, is forced to wear. Most intriguing though is James Long, a real wrestler, with two-toned hair and some very fast moves, who plays the Bad Guy, Billy Heartland and Old Glory. As assistant fight choreographer Long has also taught the other “wrestlers” in the cast some very convincing moves.
A special round of applause should go to Joe Isenberg, the Fight Choreographer. He has made wrestling very real and quite fascinating, in the way that you cannot help but look while passing an accident on the highway.
Director John Vreeke pulls plenty of punches. Set and costume designer Misha Kachman, lighting designer Colin K. Bills, projection designer Jared Mezzocchi and sound designer Christopher Baine have created an atmosphere that turns Woolly’s comfortable modern theater into a steamy wrestling ring. They deserve much praise.
A finalist for the 2010 Pulitzer Prize for Drama (it was won by the musical Next to Normal), The Elaborate Entrance of Chad Deity swings wide. Playwright Kristoffer Diaz has a wonderful ear for dialogue and slang, but his play lacks is a script that goes deeper than a bruise.
You may want to read what Curtainup critics had to sabout this play in New York and in Philadelphia