Regional Reviews: Florida - West Coast
The Elaborate Entrance of Chad Deity is a testosterone-laden comedy/drama set in the world of professional wrestling. The themes examined include racism, the world of professional sports, and how the promoters sell their product to audiences. I also found a parallel connection to the world of talk radio which sells a "truth" that few of the participants really believe, but when called on it often take the "I'm an entertainer, not a journalist" road. A play that I was not expecting to find to my tastes has not been off my mind since seeing it, and I am hoping to make a return visit to pick up details I missed.
The production values are flat out phenomenal, putting the audience right down into the world of high dollar professional sports: video screens everywhere of varying quality and size, direct video feed from the stage to these screens, rotating colored spot lights, high intensity white light, hyper-loud volume, almost piercing at times.
The actual plot concerns Macedonio Guerra, known as Mace, a utilitarian wrestler, a guy who makes the star look good. He was a poor kid from the Brooklyn, a huge wrestling fan, so this job seems to be almost all his dreams rolled up into one. Chad Deity is the star because he looks good, can act the part decently and has charisma. Mace does not have the "it" thing. When one of his brothers spots an Indian guy in their basketball games who has that certain something, Mace befriends him and tries to launch him as a new star.
Kristoffer Diaz knows all about the world he is writing about. This is mostly Mace's story, and he often talks to the audience in extended monologues. This is a device I normally don't love, but here it works perfectly, making the relationship between Mace and the audience strong.
Pierre Jean Gonzalez gives a beyond brilliant performance as Mace. I have no idea what his actual background is, but every cell in his body seems to understand where Mace came from, where he is now, and the compromises he is totally willing to make to stay there and just maybe become a star himself. Garrett Turner plays Chad Deity, capturing all the posturing and phony star shenanigans. His smile does indeed light up his world when he turns it on, but he can also turn it off whenever he wants. Raji Ahsan as Vigneshwar Paduar, or VP, doesn't show me the star quality that makes Mace's brother and Mace take such notice of him. He gives a decent performance, illuminating the forces that drive this man, but not the sizzle. Scott Aiello as promoter Everett K. Olson is sleazily perfect. Jamin Olivencia plays several wrestling opponents, and he fully rises to the occasion when, as Billy Heartland, he gets a moment to play an old pro in three dimensions. Danielle Renella sits in the audience playing audience members at the matches, adding some dimension. Brandon Fillette mostly operates a video camera, feeding live images to the screens.
I would expect this play to be the providence of male directors, but it is impossible to argue with the results Jen Wineman delivers. Aided by Tim Mackabee (scenic design), Eduardo Sicangco (costume design), Alan Edwards (lighting design), Alex Basco Koch (media/projection design) and several other very talented technical people, she delivers a flawless production. Special mention must go to fight director Michael Rossmy. I know that "professional" wrestling is all staged and choreographed, but up close the wrestling sequences here are incredibly vivid.
Asolo Rep delivers a surprise knockout punch with The Elaborate Entrance of Chad Deity. It was a 2010 finalist for the Pulitzer Prize for Drama, and I can understand why.
Asolo Repertory Theatre presents The Elaborate Entrance of Chad Deity through April 30, 2017, at the Cook Theatre in the FSU Center. 5555 N. Tamiami Trail, Sarasota, Florida. Box Office 941-351-8000. For more information visit www.asolorep.org.
Cast (in order of appearance):
Directed by Jen Wineman