(BIOGRAPH; 299 SEATS; $48 TOP) CHICAGO A Victory Gardens Theater presentation, in association withTeatro Vista, of a play in two acts by Kristoffer Diaz. Directed byEdward Torres. Set, Brian Sidney Bembridge; costumes, Christine Pascual;lighting, Jesse Klug; sound, Mikhail Fiksel; projections, John Boesche;fight direction, David Woolley; production stage manager, Tina M. Jach.Opened Oct. 5, 2009. Reviewed Oct. 7. Runs through Nov. 1. Running time:2 HOURS, 15 MIN.Vigneshwar Paduar Usman AllyChad Deity Kamal Angelo BoldenMacedonio Guerra Desmin BorgesEverett K. Olson,Ring Announcer James KragJoe Jabroni, Billy Heartland,Old Glory Christian Litke Ladies and gentlemen, in this corner of Chicago”s rich theaterscene, weighing in wihh a unique combo of vigorous physicality andwickedly intelligent humor, please put your hands together for “TheElaborate Entrance of Chad Deity,” a vibrantly entertaining,insightful new play about–wait for it–professional wrestling. Fromplaywright Kristoffer Diaz, and produced by Victory Gardens inassociation with under-recognized local company Teatro Vista, this playset in the unlikeliest of milieus seems likely to prove a breakouteffort for its scribe, director Edward Torres and lead performer DesminBorges. Borges plays Macedonio Guerra, who grew up in the Bronx with aspecial fondness for pro wrestling. While his brothers mostly justadored its raw energy, Macedonio felt a deeper appreciation for theform: “I was watching for real,” he says. “I wasunderstanding every point of the stories being told.”
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Now he”s in his mid-to-late-career as a mid-level wrestlercalled “The Mace,” a functional part of THE Wrestling, anobvious stand-in for the WWE. Mostly, he”s paid to lose, whichdoesn”t bother him too much. He”s smart enough to know that inwrestling–and in life–some people simply have the job of making theless talented look good. For Macedonio, that”s one of the elementsthat makes wrestling representative of America: “You can”tkick a guy”s ass without the help of the guy whose ass you”rekicking.”
No matter how much heand boss Everett K. Olson (an amusing James Krag) know they createfiction, there”s still a very real star system. Most of thecompany”s revenue comes from merchandise with Chad Deity on it–soeven if he”s a fake champion, he”s a real millionaire.”Do you know how many crispers A I have in my refrigerator?,”he bellows when challenged. The status quo gets a nice stirring when Macedonio discoversVignesh-war Paduar (Usman Ally), an Indian basketball player in Brooklynwith a gift for hip-hop-style gab that Macedonio finds so compelling hebrings Paduar to meet Olson. Maybe, just maybe, Macedonio thinks hisbuddy VP will be the vehicle for telling a new type of story, one morereflective of America”s polyglot reality. But instead of seeing what”s unique in VP, Olson transformshim into the most base of stereotypes, a terrorist of vagueinternational origin, and the Puerto Rican Macedonio plays his manager,the Mexican revolutionary Che Chavez Castro. As absurd villains, theybecome sudden stars. This is highly entertaining stuff, edgy and funny and over-the-top,yet fully believable. Torres” production punctuates the story withsome “real” and very convincing wrestling sequences on thesizeable ring that commands centerstage in Brian Sidney Bembridge”sfully realized set design, replete with big, blinding lights for thestaged entrances through the audience. Borges, who leads us through the story with a modest, likabledemeanor, draws us into his character”s expectations only to seethem consistently upended. Diaz understands full well that, as inwrestling, plays are a whole lot more involving when there”s arooting interest, and it”s awfully easy to root for Macedonio. Ifthere”s an aesthetic limitation here, it”s that Diaz relies abit too much on monologue, which keeps some of the other characters frombeing quite as involving as Macedonio. The play, of course, is about wrestling and yet not at all aboutwrestling. “What we do is metaphor,” says Macedonio, which isas true of “The Elaborate Entrance of Chad Deity” as it is ofits subject. Diaz has found a vehicle to tell a much deeper narrativeabout how our culture digests racial identity, and how commerce, as wellas commercial storytelling, is at its core about generating passion,with the exploitation of our baser instincts often the easiest means ofdoing so. This is sophisticated stuff and championship playwriting. It”shigh art about low art, managing to be profoundly astute while eschewingpretension.
|Oct 19, 2009|
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