Friday night, I went and saw The Elaborate Entrance of Chad Diety at the Biograph Theatre, which is being done by Victory Gardens Theatre in association with Teatro Vista Theatre. Kristoffer Diaz’s new play, which is directed by Edward Torres, is the only time I will ever enjoy watching men in spandex.
The play focuses primarily on the world of professional wrestling with T.H.E. wrestling, who’s champion is Chad Diety (Kamal Angelo Bolden). Diaz’s play is narrated by Macedonio Guerra (Desmin Borges, who is lively and entertaining onstage), who is known more commonly as “Mace.” Macedonio grew up in the Bronx, watching wrestling with his brothers, and has a personal connection with the “sport.” However, he is a mid-level wrestler and explains to the audience that he is the man that makes Chad Diety look good.
But then, Macedonio’s brothers find a talented Indian man in Brooklyn named Vigneshwar Paduar (Usman Ally), and Mace recruits him to join T.H.E–if you’re curious, the acronym is pronounced the same way as in the word “the.” To make money, Everett K. Olson (James Krag), the man behind T.H.E., decides that Vigneshwar Paduar will be a Middle Eastern terrorist because Olson doesn’t really know the difference between an Indian and a Pakistani. He becomes The Fundamentalist, who’s signature move is first called the Kabbalah Koran Kick before becoming the Sleeper Cell. Mace becomes Che Chavez Castro, a Mexican who comes here for the American dream, only to find he hates it. And the two begin to fight other opponents in the ring such as Billy Heartland and Old Glory (Christian Litke plays both roles) in a metaphor for the American fear of being taken over by terrorists and Mexicans.
Professional wrestling is a topic that I know little about because it is senselessly loud and overly theatrical without having a point. The overt theatrical elements are key in this play; the title itself refers to the entrance of Chad Diety into the ring, which, in the production, involves Bolden walking up and down the aisle to blaring hip-hop music while throwing money in the air. And while Mace liked the more naturalistic, less dramatic wrestling when he was a boy in the Bronx, he is in a profession where he has to run around in a red and yellow sombrerro, even though he himself is Puerto Rican.
The play is filled with stereotypes of all of the characters, which skewers our views of race and provides insight into our views. Olson is the rich white man who has someone to feed steak to his dog; everything to him is a matter of money. Deity makes assumptions about Guerra and Paduar because of their ethnicities and the other two make assumptions about the other characters because of their ethnicities. The show features strong language and the racial views that the characters have are offensive–at least, they were to the couple seated next to me. But by giving a played up version of our views on race, it actually provides a mirror to what we think. It is mentioned in the play that wrestling is a metaphor and in the world of Diaz’s play, this is certainly true.
The play also features some terrific fight scenes, directed by David Woolley, both in and out of the ring. Which helps make the show work very well; a play about professional wrestling wouldn’t be very good if there were poorly done fight scenes.
I really wish I had seen this show earlier in its run, which concludes on Sunday. You don’t find plays that look at race and professional wrestling in such a well done manner that even uptight theatergoers like me leave the theater absolutely excited by what they have seen.