And in the few short, electric bouts that follow, a new appreciation emerges, not for the explosion of violence, but for the discipline of ring performance and the expertise it requires to make it appear one’s moves have lethal potential — or one’s skull is cracking.
“The Elaborate Entrance of Chad Deity” was a finalist for the Pulitzer Prize for drama in 2010. You can see via Vreeke’s earthy embrace of the work why such a hearty helping of poetry and perspiration would be an impressive contest entry. You could desire, however, that the dramatist invested more trust in his audience to find its own way through the narrative, and not have to rely on a virtual nonstop narration — and superfluous summation at evening’s end — to ensure he’s adequately spelled everything out.
Maybe Diaz worried that while wrestling IS theater, the matches, with their hulking combatants, sometimes in the guise of costumed characters of borderline ethnic offensiveness, weren’t all that relatable for a theater audience. He needn’t have, because “Chad Deity” is not a wrestling play per se; it is a morality play, and a work of more lyrical and ironic dimensions than the reductive good-vs.-evil stories that play out in the rings of the WWE.
The moral center of “Chad Deity” is one of the business’s professional fall guys, a scrappy wrestler who goes by the stage name of Mace and is played most persuasively by Jose Joaquin Perez. Mace’s job is to lose. Night after night, on a circuit here known as The Wrestling, Mace’s orders are to be vanquished by star wrestlers such as the universally adored Chad Deity (a suitably imposing and self-mocking Shawn T. Andrew), who throws American dollars emblazoned with his likeness at us —and whose uber-cockiness would make a piker out of Rowdy Roddy Piper.
The poignant underpinning is that Mace is the true expert and aficionado. And Chad is a poseur and money-grubbing cynic, in the thrall of a promoter portrayed with all the requisite bluster by superbly crude-and-slick Michael Russotto. In goatee and expensive three-piece suits, Russotto’s Everett K. Olson forever seeks new depths of American resentment and knee-jerk hostility to exploit, courtesy of ring villains like his newest find, an Indian-American hip-hop kid from the streets of New York (the splendid Adi Hanash). The bottom-feeding Olson christens him The Fundamentalist, a kafiyah-wearing wrestler who straps on a belt of dynamite sticks and, of course, trades on the worst Middle Eastern stereotypes.