In Play Reviews

There are the plays for fun and entertainment. There are important plays that focus on universal issues–grief, love, old resentments. Then there are the messy social plays that take on some of the big societal issues at a point in our history. Think Thornton Wilder’s The Skin of Our Teeth or Lynn Nottage’s Sweat. They rip them open and have a go, or, as in the case of Kristoffer Diaz‘s The Elaborate Entrance of Chad Deity, they take those issues, kick them, punch them, and throw them to the mat with a resounding thump!

La’Tevin Alexander and Matthew Sepeda in The Elaborate Entrance of Chad Deity. David Kinder photo.

Profile Theatre opens its 25th season with a play about professional wrestling. More accurately, The Elaborate Entrance of Chad Deity uses professional wrestling as an effective vehicle to talk about the “others” in our society.

Macedonio Guerra (Matthew Sepeda) is a young wrestler from the Bronx. As a small child, he and his brother and his other brother watched professional wrestling every Saturday morning. He knows everything about wrestling, and is happy to share it. He has achieved his dream, and is a good wrestler. He works for Everett  K. “EKO” Olson (Duffy Epstein), owner of THE Wrestling. His job? To get the stuffing beaten out of him by World Champion Chad Deity (La’Tevin Alexander), whom Mace acknowledges is a “terrible wrestler with charisma”.

But it’s the game, right? And Mace is only a kid from the Bronx. And, it’s a decent living. Everything changes when another wrestler shows up. Vigneshwar Paduar (Aaron Weiss) is of Indian descent, but he looks like he could be from Afghanistan. Or one of those countries. You know, Pakistan, whatever. EKO quickly embraces him as “The Fundamentalist”. The audiences will hate him. The audiences will love him. And then (GASP!) The Fundamentalist calls out Chad Deity on stage!

Naren Weiss, Duffy Epstein, and La’Tevin Alexander. David Kinder photo.

Others come to fight him–The Bad Guy (Levi Cooper), Billy Heartland (Levi Cooper), Old Glory (Levi Cooper). Plot twists stack as quickly as bodies on the mat. As awful as this may sound, it is absolutely hilarious. Why? Because in theatre, for me at least, satire is the highest form of art, and Kristoffer Diaz happens to be very good at it. A great play on many levels, The Elaborate Entrance of Chad Deity was a 2010 Pulitzer finalist.

Under Profile’s artistic director Josh Hecht’s excellent direction, this show sizzles. Once the audience leaves Mace’s childhood livingroom, the action never lets up.  Part of what makes the show so special are the actual wrestling scenes, for which accolades go to wrestling director William “Malcolm Phlex” Evans, a local professional wrestler and trainer. Actor Levi Cooper, a former wrestling pro known as “Tucker Knight”, knows the moves, but everybody else had to learn them. To date, the actors have survived.

Levi Cooper as “Billy Heartland”. David Kinder photo.

Other members of the creative team include Peter Ksander, scenic designer; Rodrigo Hernandez Martinez, costume designer; Kristeen Willis, lighting designer; Phil Johnson, sound designer; Jamie M. Rea, line production; Josh “J” Feliciano Sanchez Moser, dialect coach; David S. Cohen, stage manager; Hayley Ferrell, production assistant; Inna Richards, properties coordinator; Brian Guerrero, technical director; and Judy Bowman, casting.

The Elaborate Entrance of Chad Deity runs through October 23 at the Imago Theatre venue, 17 SE 8th Ave. Tickets are available here.

Levi Cooper and La’Tevin Alexander. David Kinder photo.


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