The Elaborate Entrance of Chad Deity
Written by Kristoffer Diaz, Directed by Shawn LaCount; Set and Props Designer, Jason Ries; Lighting Designer, Jen Rock; Sound Designer, Arshan Gailus; Costume Designer, Kendra Bell; Video Designer, Olivia Sebesky; Dramaturg, Jessie Baxter; Stage Manager, Joseph Thomas; Assistant Stage Manager, Molly Burman; Wrestling Consultant and Trainer, Brian Phillips
CAST: Ricardo Engermann, Peter Brown, Chris Leon, Jake Athyal, Mike Webb
Performances through August 25 by Company One at Roberts Studio Theatre, Calderwood Pavilion at the Boston Center for the Arts, 527 Tremont Street, Boston, MA; Box Office 617-933-8600 or www.CompanyOne.org
At first glance, it may seem that professional wrestling and the hoi polloi who are magnetically drawn to it have nothing in common with the legitimate theater and those patrons of the arts who populate its audiences. However, in The Elaborate Entrance of Chad Deity, playwright Kristoffer Diaz's loving portrait of the sport cum reality entertainment, the curtain is pulled back to reveal how the wrestling sausage is made, so to speak, and one cannot help but notice the theatricality of it all. Unsurprisingly, it turns out that wrestling is the ultimate SHOW BIZ!
Director Shawn LaCount and the team of Company One designers (Set and Props by Jason Ries, Video by Olivia Sebesky) evocatively convert the Roberts Studio Theatre into a wrestling arena, complete with a regulation ring surrounded by fans seated on three sides and, flanking the rear wall, jumbo video screens that flash announcements and promote the upcoming events. Lighting Designer Jen Rock employs rotating colored spotlights to shine down on the ring and sweep the stands, while Sound Designer Arshan Gailus supplies recorded crowd noise to add to the verisimilitude. The sometimes outlandish garb of the quartet of wrestlers is designed by Kendra Bell and fittingly defines their personae in the ring.
The actors thrust into the midst of this playground (and frequently slammed to the mat) are critical to the desired result of virtually transporting the audience from arts center to arena, and to the willing suspension of disbelief that is vital to making this play work as an immersion experience. Ricardo Engermann's Macedonia Guerra (ring moniker Mace) is part narrator, part guide to the ins and outs of the professional wrestling industry. As one who became enamored of the toy action figures and televised matches as a young boy, Mace believes that he has his dream job and is the ideal ambassador to initiate the uninitiated. He is a natural raconteur and views the storytelling aspect as arguably the most beautiful and important facet of the business.
Mace is what's known as a jobber, whose role it is to lose to the more charismatic wrestlers and make them look good. At "THE Wrestling," Chad Deity is the designated champion and good guy for the audience to love. In the title role, the incredibly buff Chris Leon struts around the ring like Muhammad Ali, gesticulating to stir up the crowd and alternating muscular poses with pec bounces, drawing hoots and hollers. The give and take between the actors and the audience is key to the authenticity of this evening in the theater masquerading as a faux sporting event. On a number of occasions during the action, individuals in the stands shouted encouragement or unintelligible remarks to one of the actor-wrestlers, and everybody seemed to buy into the idea that we were supposed to cheer for the good guys and boo the bad guys.
Good or bad is simplistically defined by "THE Wrestling" chief executive Everett K. Olson (Peter Brown) or EKO, for short. When Mace recruits a neighborhood basketball wunderkind from Brooklyn by the name of Vigneshwar Paduar (Jake Athyal), it doesn't take long for the greedy wheels to start turning in EKO's head. Never mind that Paduar is an American of Indian descent because Olson taps into the masses' fear and loathing of foreigners and terrorists to set him up as the African-American Deity's latest villainous opponent, proclaiming "What wrestling needs right now is a Muslim Fundamentalist!" In a bizarre illustration of racial stereotyping, Olson casts the Puerto Rican Mace as a Mexican terrorist to act as Paduar's manager and mouthpiece. However, Olson is crazy like a fox and his ideas are highly successful and lucrative, even as he appeals to the base instincts of his audience.