Theatre in Review

Saturday, 26 August 2017 00:47

Chad Deity, a Manly Send-up of Pro Wrestling, Asks How We Choose Our Villains Featured

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Alejandro Tey is Mace in Red Theater’s production of The Elaborate Entrance of Chad Deity. Chad Alejandro Tey is Mace in Red Theater’s production of The Elaborate Entrance of Chad Deity. Chad

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.

Last modified on Saturday, 26 August 2017 00:58
Bill Esler

A native Chicagoan, Bill Esler has been a printer and publisher for more than 35 years. He has B.A. in English with a concentration in writing from Knox College.  

 

 

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