The Elaborate Entrance of Chad Deity may not have taken home the Pulitzer Prize for which it was nominated, but it surely was a heavy contender if the production currently playing at Mixed Blood Theatre is any indication.
From playwright and wrestling fan Kristoffer Diaz, Chad Deity takes a look at the backstage side of the sport, from its pre-written storylines to its caricatures of racial stereotypes. But beyond the politics, Chad Deity also offers what draws audiences to wrestling in the first place: body slams, pile drives, and punches. In fact, Mixed Blood’s stage has been transformed into a fully functioning wrestling ring, complete with flashing lights, booming music, and, yes, elaborate entrances.
|the elaborate entrance of chad deity, presented through may 2 at mixed blood theatre. for tickets ($14-$28) and information, see mixedblood.com
Told primarily through narration, Chad Deity centers not on the title character but on Macedonio Guerra (Gerardo Rodriguez), a Puerto Rican wrestler also known as “The Mace.” Self-described as “the guy who makes the other guy look good,” Guerra is happy to play the villain to less-talented wrestlers on their way to glory. Enter Chad Deity (Ansa Akyea), the sport’s reigning champ; a small brain in a big body. But when Guerra meets Brooklyn street kid and Indian-American Vigneshwar Paduar (Shalin Agarwal), aka “VP,” he recognizes the same desire he has to tell a great story; to find a rival who pushes himself to be better.
Through Guerra’s narration, we’re told wrestling is a metaphor for America and for community, because you can’t win a match without the help of the guy whose ass you’re kicking. It’s on this premise that the rest of the show’s action plays out. Under the influence of manager Everett K. Olson (Edwin Strout), VP is transformed into “The Fundamentalist,” a Middle Eastern terrorist who threatens to destroy all that the American Chad Deity stands for. And who wouldn’t want to pay per view for that? The play’s stereotypes are so over-the-top, so in-your-face, you can’t help but think of the social ramifications.
Akyea is spot-on as the egotistical Chad Deity. Described as someone who isn’t above making a fool of himself for fame, Akyea happily obliges, shaking his booty through the aisle and flashing his pearly whites much to the delight of the women in the audience. As VP, Agarwal delivers with great comedic timing and Strout offers the perfect amount of slime as the greedy Vince McMahon wanabe. But it’s Rodriguez, much like his character, who’s the unsung hero. Just as The Mace sets up perfect piledrives for Deity, Rodriguez is flawless as a narrator setting up scenes, fights, and jokes, all while humbly making the other guys look even better and turning us into wrestling fans along the way.
As social commentary, Chad Deity delivers on the weighty issues. But it also delivers from a pure entertainment perspective, keeping us engrossed even to what is a slightly vague bitter end. And though it may not have received drama’s top prize, as Guerra knows, you can succeed even without winning.