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San Francisco by Richard Connema

An Inventive Production of
The Elaborate Entrance of Chad Deity

Also see Richard's review of Chinglish

Chad Deity
Nasser Khan, behind Tony Sancho
Aurora Theatre opens its 2012-2013 season with The Elaborate Entrance of Chad Deity, Kristoffer Diaz's vibrant play about the wacky world of professional wrestling. I am not sure I would call this a play; it's more of an event, one for modern-day drama fans looking for something different. Chad Deity is a mocking assessment of themes in current America in the fašade of a WWF lampoon.

...Chad Deity has been playing around the country for two years to mostly good reviews. The farce is about this country's addiction to ethnic stereotypes and a strange sort of patriotism when it comes to these matches. It is our need to have heroes vs. villains, and what better place for this than in a wrestling match with all of the bells and whistles?

The audience enters the intimate three-sided theatre and sees a rope-ringed canvas stage (set designer Nina Ball) dominating the room. There are two huge twin video screens on the inner wall of the theatre that are used throughout the two hour production. Menacing down-home Billy Heartland (Dave Maier) leads the audience in a pre-show warm up. He encourages us to boo at the villains and cheer for the good guys, and give us slogans to yell ("USA USA USA") at certain times. I must admit, he does energize the audience.

The story is simple: as in life, behind every winner is a really excellent loser. This story is of Macedonio "The Mace" Guerra (Tony Sancho), a middle rank pro wrestler who just might have found a winner for the big time in Indian-American homeboy Vigneshwar Paduar (Nasser Khan). Money-mad wrestling manager Everett K (Rod Gnapp), known as EKO, has found the right combination in Macedonio and Vigneshwar to go up against the filthy rich lug Chad Deity (Beethovan Oden), who is a bronzed but shallow African-American hulk. Vigneshwar will appear in the ring as a Muslim terrorist and will be called "The Fundamentalist." "The Mace" will become the terrorist's sidekick, dressed as a Mexican bandit like something out of Viva Zapata!.

Tony Sancho gives a gung ho performance as a jive, rapping tour guide from his position as the designated loser, "The Mace." He is the narrator of the piece who loves wrestling and comes out with such gems as "you can't kick a guy's ass without the help of the guy whose ass you're kicking". Nasser Khan is excellent as a Bronx guy turned into a Muslin Terrorist who looks strikingly like Osama Ben Laden when entering the ring.

Beethovan Oden camps up the role of Chad Deity, especially while in the white outfits of Maggie Whitaker's over the top costume design. Rod Gnapp is perfect as the gravel-voiced EKO. Video designer Jim Gross provides some great variations on fight promos, with Elizabeth Cadd appears in the videos as a bikini-clad go-go dancer. Kurt Landisman's pulsating red, white and blue lighting revs up the action. Kudos to Dave Maier for his electrifying fight choreography, making the fake seem real. Director Jon Tracy keeps the action moving rapidly.

The Elaborate Entrance of Chad Diety plays through September 30 at the Aurora Theatre, 2081 Addison Street, Berkeley. For tickets call 510-843-4822 or visit www.auroratheatre.org. Coming up next is Wilder Times, a collection of short plays by Thornton Wilder opening on November 2nd and running until December 9th.


Cheers - and be sure to Check the lineup of great shows this season in the San Francisco area

- Richard Connema



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