The Elaborate Entrance of Chad Deity

I’ve long talked about and studied the theatre of politics and the politics of theatre; I never thought I’d have my point made for me – so eloquently and entertainingly – by wrestling. The new Pulitzer Prize-nominated play (that just closed at Second Stage Theatre) The Elaborate Entrance of Chad Deity is, on the surface, about wrestling, but like the non-sport, the play has much more going on beneath the spandex.

Before Chad’s elaborate entrance, our host, Macedonio Guerra (played by a ball of charm and energy named Desmin Borges) tells us about his role in the wrestling world: He’s a little guy doing the heavy lifting; it’s his job to make the people who suck at wrestling (i.e., Chad Deity,) look like they don’t suck. And thus the political connections begin.

Wrestling, of the WWF/WWE variety, is full of imagery – smoke and mirrors, really – designed to help tell whatever story Vince McMahon wants to tell. And in …Chad Deity, Macedonio brings us behind the scenes to show us how the sausages are made. All Macedonio wants to do is tell his story but his boss, Everett K. Olson has other plans. Throughout the course of the play, Macedonio guides us from the elaborate entrance of Chad Deity, to the hijacking of Vigneshwar Paduar (during which he is turned from a street-smart baller into a politically incorrect wrestling figure) and finally to Macedonio’s own elaborate exit.

All the performances were great. Christian Litke plays a few different American wrestlers (who have names like Billy Heartland and Old Glory) and he himself is involved in the WWE. Michael T. Weiss is wonderfully greasy as the boss, Olson. Usman Ally does a terrific job of charming the audience as the fast talking Paduar. Terrence Archie is charismatic and plays Chad Deity with just the right combination of arrogance, cheese and sincerity. And Borges is fantastic as Macedonio; he is affecting while being effective and serves as a funny, endearing guide through the wrestling world. (He also looks and sounds like Lin-Manuel Miranda, writer and star of In the Heights.)

Whether or not you know anything about or even like wrestling, this play is well worth exploring. (For what it’s worth, when Macedonio talked about the wrestling dolls he grew up with, I flashed on the same rubberized figurines of Macho Man Randy Savage and Rowdy Roddy Piper that I played with as a kid.) There was such richness in the dialogue; I’m sorry I only got to see it once and so late in its run – I think I could report on the play in a more articulate manner if I had the opportunity to see it again. (Read Ben Brantley's review here.) Here’s what I do remember: It was great. It had a lot to say about theatrics and the American zeitgeist but it didn’t have to hit you on the back with a metal folding chair to get across its message. While I’m still not sure of how I feel about the ending – I can’t decide if it wrapped up too neatly and quickly or if it was just right – I am sure that its Pulitzer nomination was well deserved. …And that I’d see it again if it makes an entrance on Broadway.