You know you’ve made it as a playwright when you can get women engaged in a story about wrestling.
Kristoffer Diaz does just that in the quirky, odd and extremely funny play with the too-long title “The Elaborate Entrance of Chad Deity,” playing through Nov. 16 at ion theatre’s BLKBOX in Hillcrest.
Diaz also fascinates the men in the audience in this satirical/parodic exposé of the “sport” everybody loves to hate because it’s so … well, phony is the word that comes to mind.
Puerto Rican Macedonio Guerra (Steven Lone) is a professional wrestler who works for THE Wrestling. His job is to put on his mask, get in the ring and make THE star, African-American Chad Deity (Vimel Sephus) look good, i.e., let him win by taking a carefully choreographed fall at the right time.
Guerra – aka The Mace – works for THE owner Everett K. Olson (Jake Rosko), aka EKO, who explains the reason for Chad’s importance: “Chad Deity’s elaborate entrance makes soldiers remember what they fight for, makes fathers teach their sons to stand up and cheer on greatness. Chad Deity’s elaborate entrance, by proxy, is America’s elaborate entrance, ongoing, giving proof through the night that the flag is still there. Chad Deity’s elaborate entrance defeats demons, and we feel like our demons deserve that defeat, and we feel, more importantly, that we can be the ones to defeat them.”
“My boss has a knack for overstating his case,” notes Mace in an aside. Though Mace is a better wrestler, Chad will win every match because … well, because Mace is a “Jobber to the Stars” and that’s the way it works in pro wrestling.
One day Mace goes to Brooklyn to watch a kid his hoopster brothers have told him about sink shots. Mace immediately sees wrestling potential: the kid’s name is Vigneshwar Paduar (Keala Milles), aka VP; he’s Indian and can sink a basketball from yards out, but mostly he’s got a way with words – and charisma, the sine qua non of star wrestlers.
EKO will dub him The (Muslim) Fundamentalist (never mind that VP is not Muslim) and Mace will groom him to take on Chad for the championship. Imagine the marketing possibilities: two menacing minorities, two people to hate, fear and love at the same time!
This smart, funny and pointed script makes fun of everything from the American Dream to anti-immigrant hysteria to the socioeconomic implications of owning a fridge with four crispers, and does it with a spot-on cast and terrific direction by Claudio Raygoza and Catalina Maynard.
Lone is better every time I see him; this is Mace’s story to tell and Lone is spellbinding.
Sephus (remembered for his fine work in ion’s “In The Heat Of The Night”) is perfect as Chad Deity, the terrible wrestler with the great look.
Rosko is a hoot as wrestling entrepreneur EKO, ever vigilant for whatever might bring in the cash.
Evan Kendig plays an assortment of ill-fated opponents with great panache and some painful-sounding falls.
Kudos to Raygoza for the tricky set which requires a usable wrestling ring and enough space to work outside it. Mary Summerday’s outrageous costumes add to the hilarity.
Karin Filijan’s fine lighting design and James Dirks and Evan Kendig’s excellent sound design add to the atmosphere.
Congratulations to the cast for surviving wrestling boot camp (at SoCal Pro Wrestling) and making these matches look about as real as wrestling ever does.
San Diegans have come to depend on ion for smart, thought-provoking theater. This show is both – and funny to boot.
“The Elaborate Entrance Of Chad Deity” is not to be missed.
“The Elaborate Entrance of Chad Deity” plays through Nov. 16 at ion theatre’s BLKBOX, 3704 Sixth Ave., Hillcrest.
Thursday through Saturday at 8 pm; matinee Saturday at 4 pm.
Tickets: (619) 600-5020 or HERE.
To read more reviews by SDGLN Theater Critic Jean Lowerison, click HERE.