Upcoming Dance

Kristoffer Diaz’s “The Elaborate Entrance of Chad Deity” is getting a knock-out revival by Red Theater. Named for the colorfully staged, and bombastic entrances of professional wrestlers - with costumes, smoke, lights, confetti, and plenty of trash-talking put-downs of their rivals to rile up the audience - pro wrestling is really a natural event for the stage.

In this send-up of the seemingly testosterone-laden world of pro wrestlers – and a hilarious one at that - director Jeremy Aluma has also plumbed the depths of this play, lauded with an Obie and a Pulitzer finalist after its 2008 premier.

Our narrator and guide, Mace (Alejandro Tey), a young Puerto Rican man with a life-long love of wrestling – explains his career in that vital role as one of the class of professional losers, who are willingly vanquished so that the celebrated star wrestler – in this play Chad Deity – can be further elevated and celebrated. And the pay is good.

With amazing casting by Gage Wallace, the production puts the audience in the role of fans at the arena. Much as I resist such tropes (please, let me hide in my seat!), this production drew me in, then captured me – along with the rest of us watching at the StrawDog Theatre building.   

This was in part due to the charismatic and captivating performance of Alejandro Tey as Mace. He carries on for perhaps 45 minutes, relating his life story, teaching us the fine points of the profession, and explaining the symbiosis between the winner and loser. This almost mesmerizing performance is punctuated by demonstrations of wrestling technique.

But in very large measure Chad Deity succeeds on the seamless performances of the troupe – Mickey Sullivan is top drawer as Eko, the promoter; Will Snyder as The Bad Guy and as Fight Captain; and the night I saw it, Harsh Gagoomal as VP. Special kudos to Dave Honigman as the other Bad Guy and as an off-the-wall Referee who also performs janitorial duties and even wanders into the lobby during intermission. Chad Deity himself – Semaj Miller – tears up the in an over the top performance

Before seeing Chad Deity, I was quite blind to the team work and dynamic between winners and losers. My perception was the wrestling was clowning, not sport. In fact, the throws – and accompanying falls – require careful training. The troupe at Red Theater did its due diligence in learning these skills and clearly put in the hours on the wrestling mat.

The revival of this play is also timely. The panoply of villainous characters challenging Chad Diaz’s script highlights the American male heroes who vanquish the Bad Guys. The play – like real wrestling – trades on caricatures for the winners and designated losers alike. Over time, new models of trending bad guys are rolled out.

In Chad Deity, that new character is VJ, a motormouthed Pakistani who stands in for a variety of Middle Eastern villains. Mace adopts the role of his accomplice, playing a Mexican bandit. Let’s just say neither of them intend to pay for any frigging wall.

The plot may be overly burdened by one additional claim on it: Mace is really a great wrestler, and wants to win, rather than lose well. Just once he would like to take the winners belt. Mace and the play deserve this, but it does seem to slow the action at points.

The Red Theater creative team has converted the Strawdog Theatre space into a convincing live wrestling event. It was an absolute delight. The Elaborate Entrance of Chad Deity plays through September 16, 2017 at 1802 W Berenice Ave, Chicago, IL 60613. It is highly, highly recommended.

Published in Theatre in Review

Red Theater Chicago announces the start of their 6th season with their upcoming production of The Elaborate Entrance of Chad Deity by Kristoffer Diaz, directed by Jeremy Aluma. Performances run August 15 through September 16, 2017. Opening is Friday, August 18, 2017 at 8:00 PM at Strawdog Theatre, 1802 W Berenice Ave, Chicago, IL 60613.

THE PLAY
How does one pursue the “American Dream” in a country that refuses to offer opportunity indiscriminately? That is the question at the heart of The Elaborate Entrance of Chad Deity, a flashy American satire set in the professional entertainment wrestling world. We follow Macedonio Guerra, an excellent Puerto Rican wrestler, as he rises from the bottom of the pecking order. In this interactive physical comedy, Mace talks directly to the audience as fans in his arena, drawing the viewer into the struggle, joy, and heart of the story. The play dissects race, xenophobia, ego, and our moral compass – topics even more relevant now than when it premiered eight years ago. Winner of the 2011 Obie Award for Best New American Play, a 2009 Pulitzer Prize Finalist, and the 2008 National Latino Playwriting Award.

CALENDAR LISTING
WHO: Red Theater Chicago
WHAT: The Elaborate Entrance of Chad Deity by Kristoffer Diaz, directed by Jeremy Aluma.
WHERE: Strawdog Theatre, 1802 W Berenice Ave, Chicago, IL 60613
WHEN:
Friday, August 18 at 8pm 
Saturday, August 19 at 8pm 
Sunday, August 20 at 4pm 
Thursday, August 24 at 8pm
Friday, August 25 at 8pm
Saturday, August 26 at 8pm 
Sunday, August 27 at 4pm (touch tour)
Monday, August 28 at 8pm (captions)
Thursday, August 31 at 8pm (captions)
Friday, September 1 at 8pm
Saturday, September 2 at 8pm 
Sunday, September 3 at 4pm 
Thursday, September 7 at 8pm
Friday, September 8 at 8pm
Saturday, September 9 at 8pm 
Sunday, September 10 at 8pm (understudy show)
Thursday, September 14 at 8pm
Friday, September 15 at 8pm
Saturday, September 16 at 8pm (closing)

TICKETS: Tickets go on sale online July 24, 2017 at redtheater.org

TICKETS, DATES & INFORMATION
The Elaborate Entrance of Chad Deity runs Thursdays through Saturdays at 8:00 PM, and Sundays at 4:00 PM August 15, through September 16, 2017, with an additional Monday performance on August 28 with captions. Captions will also be provided on Thursday, August 31 at 8:00 PM. A touch tour will be offered on Sunday, August 27 at 4:00 PM. Tickets go on sale online July 24, 2017 at redtheater.org. **Previews are Tuesday, August 15 through Thursday, August 17 at 8:00 PM. The Elaborate Entrance of Chad Deity will be performed at Strawdog Theatre’s new home at 1802 W Berenice Ave, Chicago, IL 60613. The theater is fully accessible and CTA accessible via the Irving Park Brown Line train or the #11 Lincoln bus.

Published in Upcoming Theatre

Red Theater Chicago announces the start of their 6th season with their upcoming production of The Elaborate Entrance of Chad Deity by Kristoffer Diaz, directed by Jeremy Aluma. Performances run August 15 through September 16, 2017 at Strawdog Theatre, 1802 W Berenice Ave, Chicago, IL 60613.


THE PLAY
How does one pursue the “American Dream” in a country that refuses to offer opportunity indiscriminately? That is the question at the heart of The Elaborate Entrance of Chad Deity, a flashy American satire set in the professional entertainment wrestling world. We follow Macedonio Guerra, an excellent Puerto Rican wrestler, as he rises from the bottom of the pecking order. In this interactive physical comedy, Mace talks directly to the audience as fans in his arena, drawing the viewer into the struggle, joy, and heart of the story. The play dissects race, xenophobia, ego, and our moral compass – topics even more relevant now than when it premiered eight years ago. Winner of the 2011 Obie Award for Best New American Play, a 2009 Pulitzer Prize Finalist, and the 2008 National Latino Playwriting Award.


CALENDAR LISTING
WHO: Red Theater Chicago
WHAT: The Elaborate Entrance of Chad Deity by Kristoffer Diaz, directed by Jeremy Aluma.
WHERE: Strawdog Theatre, 1802 W Berenice Ave, Chicago, IL 60613
WHEN:
Friday, August 18 at 8pm (press opening)
Saturday, August 19 at 8pm 
Sunday, August 20 at 4pm 
Thursday, August 24 at 8pm
Friday, August 25 at 8pm
Saturday, August 26 at 8pm 
Sunday, August 27 at 4pm (touch tour)
Monday, August 28 at 8pm (captions)
Thursday, August 31 at 8pm (captions)
Friday, September 1 at 8pm
Saturday, September 2 at 8pm 
Sunday, September 3 at 4pm 
Thursday, September 7 at 8pm
Friday, September 8 at 8pm
Saturday, September 9 at 8pm 
Sunday, September 10 at 8pm (understudy show)
Thursday, September 14 at 8pm
Friday, September 15 at 8pm
Saturday, September 16 at 8pm (closing)


TICKETS: Tickets go on sale online July 24, 2017 at redtheater.org

TICKETS, DATES & INFORMATION
The Elaborate Entrance of Chad Deity runs Thursdays through Saturdays at 8:00 PM, and Sundays at 4:00 PM August 15, through September 16, 2017, with an additional Monday performance on August 28 with captions. Captions will also be provided on Thursday, August 31 at 8:00 PM. A touch tour will be offered on Sunday, August 27 at 4:00 PM. Tickets go on sale online July 24, 2017 at redtheater.org. **Previews are Tuesday, August 15 through Thursday, August 17 at 8:00 PM. The Elaborate Entrance of Chad Deity will be performed at Strawdog Theatre’s new home at 1802 W Berenice Ave, Chicago, IL 60613. The theater is fully accessible and CTA accessible via the Irving Park Brown Line train or the #11 Lincoln bus.

 

Published in Upcoming Theatre

In Akvavit Theatre Company's Hitler On The Roof, playwright Rhea Leman has devised the perfect post-mortem punishment for the man behind the Nazi propaganda machine. It’s spring of 1945, Berlin, infamous Fuhrerbunker; the war is all but lost, Hitler had just committed suicide, Dr. Joseph Goebbels and his wife have followed his lead, first having poisoned their six children. Everybody’s dead. But, wait: Dr. Gobbels’ ghost (played by Amy Gorelow) is still hanging around refusing to cross onto the next world. Seventy-two years had passed, it’s now 2017, yet, Dr. Goebbels believes that the war is still going on and that he’s got some important work to do.


I’d like to note that Strawdog Theatre is a very intimate space with just two double rows of seats on each side of the stage. The stage itself is made to look like a bunker (set design by Chad Eric Bergman), empty food cans strewn around, Edith Piaf’s “Non, je ne regrette rien” blasting in the background, and muffled old radio recordings of Hitler’s speeches occasionally chiming in (sound design by Nigel Harsch).


Ducking under the table each time a bomb goes off above the bunker, Dr. Goebbels keeps himself busy reciting Hitler’s and his own accomplishments and quotes, playing radio broadcasts to non-existent audiences, and boasting about his past, unable to let go and “move on”. Pacing around the bunker and reflecting on Germany’s past (“in 1931 Hitler turned dying country into a thriving country” and “created a new DNA, designed a new Germany”), he also analyzes propaganda’s manipulative power. As Minister of Propaganda and Peoples Enlightenment, Dr. Joseph Goebbels would know: he controlled arts, media, news and information in Germany from 1933 until his death in 1945.


Playwright Rhea Leman uses this original way to shine the light on the media and how it may be used as a tool to shape people’s perceptions and opinions, creating our reality. History is always there to remind us of our past and warn about the future. Born and raised in New York City, Rhea Leman moved to Denmark in 1981. She wrote Hitler On The Roof in 2011 in response to rise of Danish Nationalism. The original production of the play by the company Folketeatret toured Denmark for two years, winning the prestigious Reumert award for Best Leading Actress. Rhea Leman is the winner of multiple awards, including the Allen Prize award for “excellent dramatic writing”. Her writings focus on serious subjects which she presents in humorous ways, not unlike the current piece.


Mid-way through the play, Dr. Gobbels is joined in the bunker by the ghost of artist and filmmaker Leni Reifenstahl (Jay Torrence in drag), and the play picks up quite a bit. Together these two actors have such great chemistry on stage, and the gender role reversal of the two actors makes the premise of the play even more comical. Dressed like clowns, they dance (adorable!), flirt, and slap each other around (choreography by Susan Fay), all the while engaging in conversational battles to try and out-manipulate one another. But Leni Reifenstahl didn’t just drop in to chat; she’s there on a self-serving mission that, ultimately, doesn’t go as well as planned. Let’s just say the two “living dead” might just end up passing an eternity together, stuck in the bunker. Well done.


Hitler on the Roof is being performed at Strawdog Theatre (1802 W. Bernice Ave) through July 9th. For more information on this show or to purchase tickets, visit www.chicagonordic.org.

Published in Theatre in Review
Tuesday, 08 March 2016 12:59

Strawdog's D.O.A. A Nice Ode to Film Noir

In Strawdog Theatre’s final performance at the popular northside theatre bar, Hugen Hall, we are presented with Elizabeth Lovelady’s world premiere adaptation of Rudolph Mate’s film noir thriller D.O.A.

Intrigue is the name of the game in this whodunit and audience members are kept guessing to the end.

When Frank Bigelow walks into a police station to report a murder, the intrigue begins immediately as we find out the victim is none other than himself. Poisoned and running out of time, Bigelow frantically searches for the reason he has been targeted and the people responsible. Going over past events leading up to the present and speculating on all possibilities as to why someone would want him dead, Bigelow puts the pieces of the puzzle together, bringing to light a few surprises along the way. As the sixty-minute play unfolds, clues are slowly revealed at a nice pace and the plot steadily gains traction.

The plot has enough to keep one interested though not necessarily keeping one on the end of their seat. What makes the play special is its setting. Thanks to commendable efforts by costume designer Raquel Adorno, lighting designer John Kelly, sound designer Heath Hays, prop designer Jamie Karas and scenic designer Mike Mroch, the simple space is nicely transformed to which D.O.A. embodies a classic flatfoot detective style with scenes reminiscent unforgettable films such as The Third Man or Double Indemnity.

Capturing the smallest of details to add a genuineness to the proposed era are the women made up in black lipstick, the stylish 1940s suits and dresses, the smoke-filled room that creates moving shadows amongst the white spotlighting and the snappy dialogue filled with film noir jargon. Actors gracefully walk around the stage and seating area as the scenes quickly change, often leaving a cast member standing or sitting right alongside a member of the audience, making this a unique theatre experience.   

The play also offers its share of humor as a handful of scenes over-emphasize the drama with extended freeze frames, gazes and deadpan deliveries of cheesy lines.

Mickey O’Sullivan leads the capable cast as a desperate Frank Bigelow with fellow cast members contributing nicely – many in dual roles, especially getting strong performances by Sean McGill (Harry, Bartender, Chester) and Kelsey Shipley as Elaine/Ms. Foster.  

 

Strawdog Theatre’s D.O.A. is being performed at Hugen Hall (3829 N. Broadway) through April 5th. For tickets and/or more show information visit www.Strawdog.org.      

Published in Theatre Reviews

 

 

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