theater (reviews)

review: the elaborate entrance of chad deity

The Elaborate Entrance of Chad Deity

by Kristoffer Diaz
Directed by Edward Torres
Starring Usman Ally, Terence Archie, Desmin Borges, Christian Litke, Michael T. Weiss
Second Stage Theatre, 305 W 43rd Street, NYC
production web site:
http://www.2st.com/component/option,com_plays/task,viewPlay/id,132
April 27, 2010 through June 20, 2010

Reviewed by Martha Wade Steketee
June 10, 2010

I saw the Philadelphia InterAct production of Chad Deity in early November 2009 in the Philadelphia Shakespeare Theatre space on the second floor of an old church on Sansom — where the seats ringed the stage provided a depth of sense of the boxing ring in the middle.  [production web site: http://www.interacttheatre.org/2009-2010-feature-1.html] This was the “Philly premiere”, though almost simultaneous with the Chicago Victory Gardens “world premiere” that is the current production that has transferred to Second Stage in New York City.  No member of the audience in Philadelphia was too far from the action, with a roving videographer whose coverage was projected onto large screens, and the actors had a multitude of playing spaces in, on, under, around, beside the ring in which the action of the play the larger stage metaphor plays out in this piece of theatre.  This intimacy and variety are set aside at Second Stage for proscenium layout, bright lights, blaring music, through-the-house entrances and audience interactions at the edges (one member even lifted from her front row seat into the arms of the outsized wrestler making his entrance).  Yes.  Choices.  Yes opinions about which works best for me personally.  And yes, an important new voice (perhaps now not spanking new) in theatre making.

Is professional wrestling a metaphor for social aspirations and commercial achievement and political life?  Metaphor and reality — yes.  Can different productions of this same piece of theatre present those themes, those metaphors in distinct ways?  Oh my yes.  Whisper or shout; in simple lights or flashing strobes; to pounding bass lines felt through the floorboards or straightforward fight announcing.  So many possibilities.  Edward Torres has directed at Second Stage Theatre a bawdy, raucous, powerful and engaging (judging from our enthusiastic crowd response) version of this piece of story telling in a proscenium space, with generous use of all possible exits and entrances.  And the odd chance professional wrestling throw.  Desmin Borges (as Macedonio Guerra, or Mace) stuns in a reprise of  his Victory Gardens performance, narrating this story as a young man from the Bronx who envisioned the romantic possibilities of the wrestlers he watched on television, over his breakfast cereal, as a child.  Terence Archie shines the titular Chad Deity, a man beautiful of body and full of charisma and with not one ounce of wrestling skill.  His success and his role in the varying scripted dramas enacted in the THE wrestling arena of the play requires his opponents to make him look good.  When they make him look good, he wins, they win, the audience’s expectations are rewarded, and the scripts play on.

This production is not complex story telling but this is engaging theatre.  And cast carefully as in this production, some of the extended monologues delivered by Mace are heartbreaking.

© Martha Wade Steketee (June 13, 2010)

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