The Geffen Playhouse Scores Another Hit With the West Coast Debut of “The Elaborate Entrance of Chad Deity”

 

 

Guided by the superb direction of Edward Torres, Kristoffer Diaz’s “The Elaborate Entrance of Chad Deity,” 2010 Pulitzer Prize finalist for Drama, hit the Geffen Playhouse with a thunderous body slam, dazzling the senses with a profusion of sights, sounds, and crisp dialogue that could be described as brilliant prose poetry.

 

Functioning as a one-man Greek chorus throughout the play, the opening monologue, delivered by the most talented Desmin Borges as Mecedonio Guerra, a.k.a. Mace, prepares the audience for what is about to unfold.  Breaking the fourth wall, an excellent directorial choice when delivering long monologues, Mace engages the audience, sharing reminisces about how his fascination with the world of wrestling began as a young boy relating that while his friends were playing with action figures, he was playing with wrestling figures.

 

Terence Archie as superstar wrestler Chad Deity with Desmin Borges as Mace.

 

Throughout the play, Mace shares his private inner monologue with the audience commenting on the mechanics of staging the wrestling matches and the pleasure he gets on being the fall guy or “Jobber to the stars” for super star and world champion Chad Deity, skillfully played by Terence Archie.

 

Terence Archie as Chad Deity struts his stuff like a true prima donna.

 

With vocal variety and impeccable comic timing, Archie struts his half-naked body through the audience and on stage with the air and elegance of a true prima donna.

 

As Deity (l) demonstrates his power, Mace breaks the fourth wall to give insider information to the audience.

 

 The truth is Deity is only as good as Mace makes him look in the ring, which is set against a spectacular psychedelic set design by Brian Sidney Bembridge which, through the enhancing light design by Jesse Klug, turns the stage into a three-dimensional sensory experience. 

Mace with his wrestling promoter boss (r) Everett K. Olson (EKO) played by Steve Valentine

 

Throughout the action, Mace slowly reveals the lack of a moral compass inherent in the world of wrestling as embodied in the   character of his wrestling promoter boss, Everett K. Olson (EKO,) who dressed in ostentatious shark skin suits by Costume Designer Christina Haatainen Jones, is played with just the right about of sleaze by Steve Valentine, whose character is the quintessential amoral opportunist, turning potentially negative situations into a box office bonanza.   Mace always agrees with EKO’s decisions, but reveals his true feelings to the audience.

 

As the action unfolds, we meet Vigneshwar Paduar (VP), a local homeboy, with great champion potential played by Usman Ally, who flies around the stage with the grace of a trapeze artist.  EKO is overjoyed at having a Muslim wrestler and comes up with a move he calls “The Camel Clutch,” “Because you people ride camels,” and elaborates that this deadly move emanated from “The shadowy nature of a sleeper cell.” 

 

Dressed in costume for a theatrical wrestling match, (L) Usman Ally as "The Fundamentlist" and Desmin Borges (Mace) as a Mexican bandito

 

A wrestling act is concocted between Mace and “The Fundamentalist,” dressed in a loincloth, and Mace, dressed as a Mexican bandito named Che Chavez Castro, replete with a black sombrero and the traditional bullet belt criss-crossing his chest.  But, all is not going well, as VP freezes on his first match but recovers just in time to knock out his opponent with one swift kick.

 

L-R: Usman Ally's Vigneshwar Paduar (VP) in a heated exchange with the champion, Chad Deity (Terence Archie.)

 

Deity becomes jealous of VP’s burgeoning success and VP begins to build up resistance to looking so ridiculous and achieving phony success in only two matches and one move and makes an unexpected decision.

 

L-R: Texas Heavyweight Champion Timothy Talbott as "Old Glory" in a staged match with Deity.

 

In the very realistic wrestling scenes, choreographed to perfection by Fight Director David Woolley, the audience actually gasped several times as one of the real wrestlers, played by Texas Heavyweight Champion Timothy Talbott, in the dual roles of Billy Heartland and Old Glory, hit the deck in a thunderous crash. 

The other profession wrestler Justin Leeper as "The Bad Guy

 

L-R: Deity declares victory as he wins match over Billy Heartland played by Timothy Talbott

 

Leaping into the ring as “The Bad Guy, was Justin Leeper, the other professional wrestler, adding to the authenticity of the action.  During the fight scenes, the audience is assaulted with a profusion of flashing lights and Sound Designer Mikhail Fiksel’s deafening sounds, including a clever signature tone underscoring the scene and character transitions. 

With giant rear screen projections in the background, Chad Deity (Terence Archie) talks to the audience.

 

Peter Nigrini’s Production and Video Design is an additional technical treat as we see the action on stage flashed on giant screens adding to the authenticity of a live wrestling match.

 

One could easily conclude that this play is a spoof on wrestling associations and leave it at that.  However, Diaz’s compelling play goes far beyond that particular theatrical world and serves as a metaphor that can be applied to banks, Wall Street, and the state of geopolitics, making Mace’s words “Why are they rooting for the bad guys?” profound and timely in view of the real world in which we live.

 

 

 

The Geffen Playhouse

10886 Le Conte Avenue

Los Angeles, CA 90024

Run:  Tuesdays – Sundays Through October 9, 2011

Tickets:  310.208.5454

www.geffenplayhouse.com.          

 

Photo Credit: Michael Lamont

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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