Macedonio Guerra (Brandon Morris) is a Puerto Rican professional wrestler from the Bronx who grew up watching wrestling matches on TV with his brothers, and playing with the action figures modeled after the wrestlers they so admired. Today he works for the fictional wrestling franchise THE Wrestling, run by Everett K. Olson (Gregg Weiner), where he spends his time in the ring making other wrestlers look good. Despite his wrestling expertise Macedonio (Mace) has never won a professional wrestling match, because he has never been allowed to. He is part of the theatrics behind professional wrestling that sells tickets through image and hype. As he says: "In wrestling nobody takes the other guy down without the help of the other guy." While it is his carefully staged talent in the ring that allows less capable wrestlers such as Chad Deity (Donte Bonner) to look good, it is the same talent that makes Mace look like he's not a good wrestler to the public.
The latest THE Wrestling acquisition is edgy, young Vigneshwar Paduar (Adam Bashian), who is of Indian decent. Paduar (VP) is costumed and presented to the public as a hodge-podge of every possible undesirable Middle-Eastern element. His only wrestling move is a "sleeper cell kick" with which he crushes his opponents. Mace is understandably irritated and amused by the wrestling personas he and Paduar assume, fraught with gross and inconsistent ethnic stereotypes, in order to keep the hype alive. Egotistical wrestlers like Deity even feed into their own press forgetting to what they owe their success. Along with muscled bravado, outrageous characters, and super-hero styled spandex costumes, it is all a bi-product of the money making machine of professional wrestling. But, what becomes of the men like Mace and VP who have sacrificed in order for men like Deity to be the star? When is it their turn to be proudly recognized for who and what they are? It is all a cleverly written allegory examining racism and the potential costs of promoting the image of an all-American ideal.
With a wrestling ring center stage, the audience is treated to a pre-show smack down. It sets the scene for an evening where they are invited to cheer or boo for wrestlers who flex and pose as they eat up the adulation of the crowd. The staging makes great use of an onstage cameraman following the wrestlers around, while the footage is displayed on screen. It reinforces that much of what is occurring is being played for how it looks not what it really is underneath
Handsome "all-American heroes" like Chad Deity strut through the audience throwing dollar bills aloft. It's all part of the experience of his "elaborate entrance." Donte Bonner as Chad Deity has the smooth and cocky swagger of a wrestler at the peak of his popularity. He manages to capture the crowd's attention like a beautiful but spoiled child, which really is exactly what Deity is. Adam Bashian has great street cred as Paduar. His energy, accent, and body language all work together to make the character believable. Brandon Morris establishes the strongest relationship with the audience. He is ever present, monitoring and encouraging their response, without any of it effecting his pacing. His feel is personable and conversational, and while his character shares his observations of the situation, he manages to do it without steering them toward any conclusion but their own.
The Elaborate Entrance of Chad Deity is surprisingly entertaining. Our visit with the colorful world of wrestling provides a bit of a breath of fresh air. The meaningful message behind the premise sneaks into our conscious mind as it is presented in an unexpected way.
Playwright Kristoffer Diaz lives and works in Brooklyn, New York. He is a Playwright-in-Residence at Teatre Vista, a recipient of the Jerome Fellowship, the Future Aesthetics Artist Regrant, and the Van Lier Fellowship. In addition to The Elaborate Entrance Of Chad Deity his other works include Guernica, Welcome To Arroyo's, The Trophy Thieves: A High School Love Story, and #the revolution.
The Elaborate Entrance Of Chad Deity will be appearing through February 12, 2012, at the Caldwell Theatre. The Caldwell Theatre Company is a professional theatre company hiring local and non-local Equity and non-Equity actors. The Caldwell Theatre Company is designated by the State of Florida as a Cultural Institution and receives funding from the State of Florida through the Florida Department of State, the Florida Arts Council and the Division of Cultural Affairs. The Caldwell Theatre Company is located in the Count De Hoernle Theatre at 7901 N. Federal Highway in Boca Raton, Florida. Performance times are Wednesday through Saturday evenings at 8:00 PM, and Wednesday, Saturday and Sunday matinees at 2:00 PM. For information and/or tickets you may contact them by phone at 561-241-7432 or online at www.caldwelltheatre.com.
*Indicates member of the Actor's Equity Association, the Union of Professional Actors and Stage Managers in the United States.
Photo: Tim Bennett