Theater Review: Wrestling With Art

Ultimately the evening is NOT about wrestling. It’s about the root, the very nature of art. About the love of craft; about wanting and needing to create.

The Elaborate Entrance of Chad Deity by Kristoffer Diaz. Directed by Shawn LaCount. Featuring Ricardo Engermann (as “Mace”); Chris Leon (as “Chad Deity”); Jake Athyal (as “The Fundamentalist”); Mike Webb (as “Billy Heartland”); and Peter Brown (as “Everett K. Olson”). Staged by Company One at the Calderwood Pavilion (Roberts Theatre) at Boston Center for the Arts, Boston, MA, through August 25.

By Peter-Adrian Cohen

Mike Webb in Company One’s rousing production of THE ELABORATE ENTRANCE OF CHAD DEITY. Photo: Liza Voll.

Whatever art is about, it’s also about this: the passion of getting things right. Writing is rewriting; painting is painting over, and there is no detail too small not to contribute to the whole. We see the same process in top athletes, how they work for years to place the ball a fraction of an inch closer to the white line.

Even before the play began, I was struck by its set: a ring of the type professional wrestlers use, framed by racks of bright lights. The racks frame not only the ring but a large screen that shows images of amazing aesthetic quality.

And then the play begins. And it begins theatrically, with an intimidating crash. Out of the semi-darkness, a body lands on the boards. And as in a real ring, these boards are constructed as a resonance chamber amplifying the fall. The first body is that of “Macedonio Guerra” (aka “Mace”), followed, a while later, by “Chad Deity” and still later by “VP” (aka “The Fundamentalist”), and still later by “Billy Heartland.” These noms de guerre, these tags, say it all. And, oh yes, there is “Everett K. Olson” entrepreneur, bossman, and commercial genius.

These “wrestlers” have the physique of the real thing. (If you ever struggled to stay in shape, you know what discipline and effort that takes); don’t forget these guys are ACTORS! And, believe me, as actors they are every bit as convincing as they are as wrestlers. Not by showing off, not by drawing attention to themselves—unless the play calls for it—but by doing their part to make each other (and the evening) “look good.”

Now as to the way the show is directed, the play unfolds organically: Gestures support words; Words support action. A flawless whole, the entrances, exits, the falls and the blows are choreographed with the same playful—if you forgive the pun—pursuit of excellence that defines the entire evening. Same for the lights—or rather, the moods they create. Same for the costumes. Now the costumes in professional wrestling are notoriously inventive and outrageously macho, what with the grotesque baklava type masks, etc. But with regard to the costumes as well, I felt the artistic discipline that elevates this show to the level of a work of art.

The playwright has taken the trouble to listen patiently and lovingly to his characters; you hear New York dialects that turn on its head the notion that these “dialects” are crude, devoid of nuance; in fact you discover the opposite; out of these “languages” the characters create vivid and at times very funny identities for themselves.

So, in the end, what is the play about? I mean, beyond the wrestling?

Chris Leon, Mike Webb, and Peter Brown in Company One’s production of a play about wrestling, art, and keeping in shape. Photo: Liza Voll.

After everything I have said, you can guess my answer: The Elaborate Entrance Of Chad Deity is about art. About a violent ballet, supported by utterly fantastic costumes. But such a summary makes the play smaller than it is. Ultimately the evening is indeed NOT about wrestling. It’s about the root, the very nature of art. About the love of craft; about wanting and needing to create.

The Elaborate Entrance of Chad Deity reveals an obvious truth about all of our lives and the nature of art: that we don’t have to travel to far, exotic places to be awakened from the slumber of our everyday existence. We merely have to do what this playwright, this director, and this cast do: open our ears, our eyes, and especially our heart—and we will discover pulsing, inspiring life wherever we look.

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