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Washington DC by Susan Berlin

The Elaborate Entrance of Chad Deity

Also see Susan's reviews of Bengal Tiger at the Baghdad Zoo and Jacques Brel ...

Chad Deity
James Long and Shawn T. Andrew
Exaggerated spectacle, an us-versus-them mentality, people living up to rigid ethnic and racial stereotypes: is this life, politics, or professional wrestling? The Elaborate Entrance of Chad Deity, now at Washington's Woolly Mammoth Theatre Company, puts together the pieces of the puzzle without being overly preachy or heavy handed.

Kristoffer Diaz's play, a finalist for the 2010 Pulitzer Prize, manages to ground the excesses of pro wrestling in reality while also viewing life through that wildly theatrical prism. Misha Kachman's scenic design and Jared Mezzocchi's larger-than-life projections bring the audience into the arena.

The audience's guide to the terrain is Macedonio "Mace" Guerra (José Joaquin Pérez), a New Yorker of Puerto Rican descent and a lover of pro wrestling since childhood. He has made his dream come true as a cast member of THE Wrestling, an entertainment empire run by a blowhard known as E.K.O. (Michael Russotto). However, Mace isn't the "good guy" in the ring; he's the heavy "who loses to make the winners look good," an athlete skilled enough to make an unskilled opponent look like he's doing the work.

The THE Wrestling champion is grinning, charming Chad Deity (Shawn T. Andrew), a muscular African American who enters the ring in character as a stereotyped hip-hop mogul (white suit, shades, tossing dollar bills to the crowd). Mace, in contrast, wears a mask in the manner of Latin American wrestlers, but he's viewed as a joke.

The action moves forward when Mace meets VP (Adi Hanash), a charismatic Indian American who doesn't know much about wrestling, but is willing to learn. He offers E.K.O. a few possible twists on his own ethnic stereotype for public consumption (corporate outsourcer, Slumdog Millionaire), but the boss would rather put VP in a fake beard and turban and sell him as a generic Middle Eastern terrorist.

Director John Vreeke orchestrates his five actors (the fifth is James Long, a professional wrestler himself, who plays several of VP's antagonists) with skill and balance, never letting the situation become too absurd and making sure the human beings stay visible behind the outrageous posturing. While the entire cast is solid, Russotto, the only Woolly Mammoth regular, surprises with his slicked white hair, his raspy voice, and the joy he takes in his own vulgarity.

Woolly Mammoth Theatre Company
The Elaborate Entrance of Chad Deity
Sept. 3rd - 30th
By Kristoffer Diaz
Mace: José Joaquin Pérez
E.K.O.: Michael Russotto
Chad Deity: Shawn T. Andrew
VP: Adi Hanash
The Bad Guy/Old Glory/Billy Heartland: James Long
Directed by John Vreeke
641 D St. N.W., Washington, DC
Ticket Information: 202-393-3939 or www.woollymammoth.net


Photo: Stan Barouh


-- Susan Berlin


Also see the Current Theatre Season Calendar for D.C.



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