Tuesday, January 17, 2012

Professional Wrestling as Allegory

America Enters the Ring in “Chad Deity”

By Skip Sheffield

Is professional wrestling an allegory for life in America?
It sure is in “The Elaborate Entrance of Chad Deity,” running through Feb. 12 at Caldwell Theatre Company, 7901 N. Federal Highway, Boca Raton.
In wrestling you have clearly defined heroes and villains. The heroes are staunch upholders of the American dream. Villains want to tear the USA apart. Part of the appeal of wrestling is that everything is so clear-cut and black-and-white. Real life is such a confusing mess of gray-scale tones.
Chad Deity (Donte Bonner) is the “hero” of Kristoffer Diaz’s 2010 Pulitzer Prize-finalist play.
“Hero” is in quotes, because Chad Deity is not a hero at all. Oh, he makes the most money and he is adored by the masses, but the real hero of the story is Macedonio Guerra, known as “The Mace” (Brandon Morris).
Mace is a professional bad guy. He is costumed in the garb of whatever ethic group we are hating at the moment.
Mace sets the stage by talking about his childhood in the Bronx; how he and his brother ate sugary cereals and played with wrestling figures. Don’t call them dolls, please.
Mace grew up to be a very good wrestler; so good it becomes his job to make lesser wrestlers appear better than they are.
Wrestling is all about team work, Mace explains. If you don’t work together, someone could get hurt. Mace’s love of wrestling is so lofty he likens it to an art form, like ballet, performed by 300-pound bruisers.
It is Mace’s job to make Chad Deity look good. Chad is handsome, confident, with gym-sculpted body. He drapes himself, literally, in the American flag. He is the star of “THE Wrestling” company. His action figures and T-shirts make buckets of money for the crass promoter Everett K. Olsen, known as E.K.O. (Gregg Weiner).
EKO knows what sells. When Mace brings in a charismatic upstart from Brooklyn, EKO smells money. No matter that Vigneshwar Paduar is of Indian descent, or that his sport is basketball. VP has presence. People stand up and take notice.
EKO cooks up a new script. Mace plays the villain as usual, but this time he is an America-hating Mexican called Che Chavez Castro. VP is a vaguely Mideastern Muslim character called The Fundamentalist.
Boo! Hiss! “Chad Deity” is extremely funny in its portrayal of the ridiculous extremes of wrestling, yet playwright Diaz salutes the men who play the roles. For authenticity’s sake, a real wrestler named Matthew Schaller plays three stereotypical heroes.
You don’t have to care a fig about wrestling to love “Chad Deity.” My brother and I watched wrestling on television when we were kids mostly for the comedy and entertainment value. Later, brother Richard got to know several professional wrestlers. They were hard-working stiffs like anyone else.
“Chad Deity” is a left-handed salute to the people of wrestling and a scathing commentary on America’s greed, materialism and jingoism. Above all its is an amazing theatrical spectacle that will make you laugh, jeer, gasp and feel both shame and pride. In the swift course of under two hours, director Clive Cholerton presents a microcosm of the paradox that is the good old USA.
Tickets are $27-$50. Call 561-241-7432 or go to www.caldwelltheatre.com.

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