Theatre Mirror Reviews -"The Elaborate Entrance of Chad Deity"

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note: entire contents copyright 2012 by Barbara Lewis

"The Elaborate Entrance of Chad Deity"

Reviewed by Barbara Lewis

Itís definitely a crowd pleaser. The Elaborate Entrance of Chad Diety, which opened the last week of July at the Calderwood Pavilion in the Boston Center for the Arts under the banner of Company One, which is quickly becoming one of the most exciting theatrical outfits in town, knows how to emotionally connect with an audience. The stage is a boxing ring and the wrestlers are barely clad with their oiled muscles rippling and dancing. The humor is broad and incisive. Kristoffer Diaz, the Obie-winning playwright, knows the narrative world of televised wrestling, and he brings its quick jab thrills to the stage. Shawn LaCount, the director, brings it all together inside the red ropes with racy verve. And all the actors (Ricardo Engermann (as Mace); Chris Leon (as Chad); Peter Brown (as Olson); Jake Athyal (as Vigneshwar Paduar) and Mike Webb (as Billy Heartland) are a delight to hear and watch.

An underdog tells the story. Macedonio Guerra, a last name that means war, was born Puerto Rican and poor in the South Bronx. As a boy, he fell hard for wrestling, which he thought of as an art form. So Mace Ė notice that almost everything here is reduced to the short byte and the quick read -- grew up to live his dream, but not on the winning side. He is the jobber, making lesser talents shine like stars.

Then he sees a chance to push through, which comes in the guise of a facile ball-playing South Asian from Brooklyn who uses crotch grabbing as verbal spice, runs after any girl he sees, and gets billed by the thin, driven, suit-wearing, money-hungry wrestling manager as a brown fundamentalist Paki Muslim terrorist. So all the boxers, save one, aka Billy Heartland & Old Glory, are incarnations of black or brown, and Olson, the money man who calls all the shots, is white, probably of Scandinavian heritage. Such is the way of the democratic world where winners and losers are the biggest story in town, stirring to fever pitch good red American blood, all mixed together, each rising or falling to its right level.

Chad Deity, the star, is black but his days are numbered even while the gold belt circling his waist as he makes his pectorals dance is big and flashy. His story is old. Which of the up-and-coming brown guys will replace him, nudge him out of the way, pin him to the mat, and take over his championship glory? The whole set-up is metaphoric of the power dynamic in America heavy with suited money-men, unclad gladiators, and eager crowds in the seats demanding to be sated with circus and bread.

Oh yes, there are raisins in this mix, plump raisins that were once grapes picked by Mexicans. Chad, which is also the name of a very poor central African country where the Sahara is located, is very much a new-age immigrant American saga of the arena, with anyone and everyone emerging into the public eye to vie and pummel for favor. By shortening the name of the play to Chad, I am following the reduction game that is prevalent in the world of pitting arms and backs against the odds and the floor and seeing who survives to fight another day. Itís a virtual parade of nations entering the mouths and minds of these characters who regularly reference Mexicans, Dominicans, Japanese, Chinese, Russians, Indians, not the native kind, Filipinos, and others. I wonder if Diaz ever read the Battle Royale scene in Ellisonís novel, The Invisible Man, which posits that Americaís main entertainment is watching two men of dark complexions fight for the titillation of the fairer than fair onlookers, with the viewing of this contest staged for their delectation and thus confirming their superiority and privilege.

The payoff is that at least one, in due time, will be utterly vanquished, and both are diminished in the process. Are we regurgitating that old saga for a new generation, with a somewhat more piquant sauce? And doesnít it all, in the long run, go back to the Romans who found the pulp of their essence vitiated by a surfeit of gaming.

Rather than being accused of over thinking the healthy, ever engaging pulse and throb of the competitive urge, that builds muscle, let me elaborate on my beginning. This is well-written, well-acted, extremely well-directed fare that keeps you on the edge of your seat and stirs your mind too. We are looking at ourselves looking at a reflection of ourselves and what could be more stimulating and fulfilling than that? Kristoffer Diaz, the playwright, is a clever one to watch. And the Company One brand thrills once again.

"The Elaborate Entrance of Chad Deity" (27 July - 25 August)
@ Boston Center for The Arts, 539 Tremont Street, BOSTON MA

THE THEATER MIRROR, New England's LIVE Theater Guide