The Elaborate Entrance of Chad Deity
Kristoffer Diaz's vivid, viscerally exciting play about the world of pro wrestling gets a top-notch production at Second Stage.
Still, the work doesn't quite fulfill its tantalizing thematic promise and falls short of making a truly provocative statement, the play is fiercely original and hugely entertaining. It's also been given a top-notch production, under Edward Torres' direction, with a seemingly perfect cast.
Part of the play's excitement is that its main character is such a distinct, fresh creation. Macedonio (Desmin Borges), a 30-year-old Puerto Rican Brooklynite, gives us the low down about wrestling (read: America) in vibrant, although a bit too constant, hip-hop rhythmic narration. He loves wrestling so much he's willing to play patsy in the ring to make the champions, like the ludicrously blinged out and pumped-up Chad Deity (Terence Archie), look better.
Macedonio is no sucker, however; he knows very well how the untalented wrestlers like Deity are cast as the heroes of the ring on the backs of the talented wrestlers like himself who don't fit the mold of stereotypically flag-waving wrestlers. In fact, Macedonio's belief in wrestling is made analogous to blind patriotism. And while his willingness to play the fool could have made him a hugely unappealing character; by dint of the power of the language that Diaz gives him and also by the vulnerability that Borges brings to him, he's a strangely poignant, electrifying comic original.
Despite the magnetic appeal of the main character and the excitement of the play's many wrestling matches (which usually too closely resemble pro wrestling in all its morally simplistic stereotyping to reasonably be called satirical), the playwright runs into trouble rendering the dramatic part of the play. When the playwright first introduces multi-culti street hotshot Vigneshwar Paduar (Usman Ally), he has Macedonio believe, markedly out of character, that this new guy might be cast as one of the sport's heroes by his boss (Michael T. Weiss). Instead, the two are teamed and given new, insulting villain personas -- the new guy as a Muslim terrorist wrestler (whose specialty move is dubbed the "sleeper cell kick") and Macedonio as his Mexican revolutionary sidekick.
The playwright scores a lot of laughs off the ludicrousness of their new act, but doesn't adequately chart the friendship with the detail that would be needed to give the play dramatic conflict. It also should be noted, that the playwright steers entirely clear of some of pro wrestling's other common targets for demonization, which would add heft to this slight if entertaining work.