Yesterday, Nick Mamatas and I went to the Aurora Theater to watch Kristoffer Diaz’s play, and Pulitzer finalist, THE ELABORATE ENTRANCE OF CHAD DEITY. It’s the story of a young Puerto Rican kid in the Bronx named Mace who loves the “Art” of pro wrestling, how two folks can work together and tell a violent story where no one gets hurt (think Bret Hart or Sean Michaels). He becomes a wrestler, but soon get schooled in the harder knocks of the “business”: the sexism, the racism, the pandering to the lowest common denominator, and the fact that the “art” is getting lost in a collective wish fullfillment of the crowd wanting to be just like the bad ass champ, Chad Deity (think Hulk Hogan), who doesn’t know a wristlock from a wristwatch, but has the swagger, the command of the crowd, and the body to put “asses in seats”. So Mace has to become a jobber, the guy who loses all the time and does all the heavy lifting in the ring to make the champ look good.
The evil promoter (think Vince McMahon) is a ignorant racist but understands how to manipulate folks to make money, so when Mace tries to bring in a local Indian kid who’s got star potential and a unique sense of humor and presence (VP) to help shake things up and make some art, the boss turns them both into racial sterotypes that take off like wildfire. Unlike Mace, VP soon tires of pandering to his boss and being the evil “Fundamentalist” with a terrible finisher, the sleeper cell kick! VP has no childhood love of wrestling that’s precious, and soon won’t play by the rules. Mace is caught in the middle, and has to make a choice, and take a stand.
It was a great play. Funny, well written, and dominated by Mace’s monologues, that were funny, smart, and compelling (though a little too long in the first half). I commend the actor Tony Sancho for handling it so well. The theme of wrestling being both a creation and a mirror of American values was well done.
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The playwright was an obvious die hard wrestling fan, knew not only the lingo and the backstage life and the awful racial and sexist stuff, but the actual philosophical underpinnings about pro wrestling that makes it stand out as a unique art form. The major theme, of myths of individual success (Chad Deity) really being the creation of someone else doing most of the hard work and not getting credit (Mace) was well conveyed.
The cast was great, and Beethoven Oden (real name!) as Chad Deity was terrific as the charismatic fellow with great looks and no talent who always wins, so long as wrestling fans want to be like him.
They also got a hand from a local wrestling company, Devil Mountain Wrestling, and some of those folks were in the audience, too! I suspect Nick and I were the only diehards, though it was fun to hear all the old guard talk about seeing wrestling as a kid, watching Gorgeous George and others.
They used a mild amount of video and jumbotron style moments, often to hilarious effect. Not so much that it broke the bubble, but just enough to get that canned weirdness of pro wrestling’s more absurdest angles in the mind of the audience.
Nick also took me to a hub of Food Trucks in Berkeley, and I got a pretty bad ass cajun sandwich at THE VOODOO VAN, polished off with a Mexican coke. And I bought a collection of letters, stand up routines, and other material from the late, great comedian Bill Hicks! A good night!