COURTESY PHOTOTag team: From left

COURTESY PHOTOTag team: From left

'Chad Deity’ adds brain to brawn of pro wrestling

You don’t have to like wrestling to love “The Elaborate Entrance of Chad Deity,” which gives audiences a ringside seat for the faked fights, outsized rhetoric, and improbably named icons of America’s favorite sports-entertainment hybrid.

Kristoffer Diaz’s visceral satire, currently making its Bay Area premiere at the Aurora Theatre Co., brings big-time wrestling onstage in eminently theatrical style. 

But smackdowns, macho heroes and bikini-clad babes are just the setting for this serious play – a finalist for the 2010 Pulitzer Prize – about a corrupt mega-business that profits from people’s deepest prejudices.

In Diaz’s fictional wrestling federation, owner Everett “EKO” Olson (the excellent Rod Gnapp) banks on stars chosen less for their athletic prowess than their ability to inflame a crowd.

The federation’s reigning king is Chad Deity (Beethovan Oden), a seasoned pro at whipping fans into a frenzy (his first appearance, costumed in Maggie Whitaker’s bling-laden costume, is a show-stopper.) 

But the story is narrated by Macedonio “Mace” Guerra (Tony Sancho), a Bronx-born Puerto Rican. Mace has big dreams, but he’s only in the ring to absorb Deity’s signature bodybombs.

 Mace is OK with being “the guy who loses to make the winners look good” – until VP Paduar (Nasser Khan), enters the game.  The enterprising Indian-American doesn’t know much about wrestling, but he wants to be a star, and Olson presents him as a Muslim terrorist named “The Fundamentalist.” 

 VP becomes an overnight sensation – while Mace is relegated to the sidelines, wearing a sombrero.  It’s a nightmare of xenophobic stereotyping, and the audience eats it up.

“Chad Deity” begins to repeat itself in the second act, and its ending doesn’t satisfy.

 But the cast members inhabit their roles with tremendous vigor. Sancho is an eloquent, appealing Mace, and Gnapp gives Olson an aptly predatory edge. Khan projects easy charisma as VP, and Oden nails the title role. Dave Maier – who is also the show’s fight director – plays various opponents in the ring.

Director Jon Tracy and his design team evoke the wrestling world in broad strokes – designers Cliff Caruthers (sound) and Kurt Landisman (lighting) deserve special credit for sensory overload, and Whitaker’s costumes let the players strut their stuff in style. 

 Nina Ball’s set – a lifelike wrestling ring backed by giant screens – seems to fill every corner of the theater.  The Aurora has squeezed big sets into its small space before, but this one represents one of the company’s most impressive creations.

REVIEW

 The Elaborate Entrance of Chad Deity

Where:  Aurora Theatre , 2081 Addison St. , Berkeley

When: 7 p.m. Tuesdays, 8 p.m. Wednesdays-Saturdays, 2 and 7 p.m. Sundays; closes Sept. 30

Tickets: $32 to $50

 Contact: (510– 843-4822, www.auroratheatre.org

 

 

artsAurora Theatre Co.entertainmentRod Gnapp

If you find our journalism valuable and relevant, please consider joining our Examiner membership program.
Find out more at www.sfexaminer.com/join/

Just Posted

From left, California state Sen. Milton Marks, Sen. Nicholas Petris, Assemblyman John Knox and activists Claire Dedrick, Sylvia McLaughlin and Janet Adams watch Gov. Ronald Reagan sign the bill establishing the Bay Conservation and Development Commission as a permanent agency in 1969. (Courtesy Save The Bay)
Sixty years of Saving San Francisco Bay

Pioneering environmental group was started by three ladies on a mission

Temporary high-occupancy vehicle lanes will be added to sections of state Highway 1 and U.S. Highway 101, including Park Presidio Boulevard, to keep traffic flowing as The City reopens. <ins>(Ekevara Kitpowsong/Special to S.F. Examiner)</ins>
Transit and high-occupancy vehicle lanes coming to some of The City’s busiest streets

Changes intended to improve transit reliability as traffic increases with reopening

Tents filled up a safe camping site in a former parking lot at 180 Jones St. in the Tenderloin in June 2020.<ins> (Kevin N. Hume/S.F. Examiner)</ins>
Proposal for major expansion of safe sleeping sites gets cool reception in committee

Supervisor Mandelman calls for creation of more temporary shelter sites to get homeless off streets

A surplus of	mice on the Farallon Islands have caused banded burrowing owls to stay year round instead of migrating, longtime researchers say. <ins>(Courtesy Point Blue Conservation Science)</ins>
Farallon Islands researchers recommend eradicating mice

The Farallon Islands comprise three groups of small islands located nearly 30… Continue reading

Once we can come and go more freely, will people gather the way they did before COVID? <ins>(Jessica Christian/S.F. Examiner file photo)</ins>
What happens when the pandemic is over?

After experiencing initial excitement, I wonder just how much I’ll go out

Most Read