AISLE SAY San Francisco


by Kristoffer Diaz
Presented by Aurora Theatre Company
Directed by Jon Tracy
Aurora Theatre
2081 Addison St., Berkeley, CA / (510) 843-4822

Reviewed by Judy Richter

Professional wrestling isn't a sport. It's entertainment, a form of theater in which each player has an assigned role, and each move and the outcome are scripted.

That's one of the messages in "The Elaborate Entrance of Chad Deity" by Kristoffer Diaz. Being given its Bay Area premiere by Aurora Theatre Company, this two-act work has a five-male cast, but it's essentially a monologue. The speaker is Macedonio "The Mace" Guerra (Tony Sancho), a Puerto Rican professional wrestler who has loved what he calls this art form ever since he and his two brothers watched it on TV in their New York City home.

Now he's employed by THE Wrestling, a promotional company run by Everett K. "EKO" Olson (Rod Gnapp). Mace's role calls for him to make his opponent look better than he and allow his opponent to win. He takes on an entrepreneurial role when he encountersVigneshwar "VP" Paduar (Nasser Khan), an athletic Indian American man whom Mace's brothers met through impromptu basketball games.

EKO agrees to put VP in the ring, but promotes him as a potential Muslim terrorist and eventually puts him up against THE Wrestling's champion, Chad Deity (Beethovan Oden), an egotistical black man. Before going up against Chad, though, VP is matched up with The Bad Guy, Billy Heartland and Old Glory, all played by Dave Maier, who also serves as fight director. Maier also warms up the audience before the show by telling observers how to react to various characters.

Billed as a social satire, "Chad Deity" plays on racial and ethnic stereotypes, but it doesn't work well. Except for The Mace, none of the characters is anyone the audience can care about, and the plot isn't all that interesting either, unless - perhaps - one is a fan of professional wrestling. The script is loaded with obscenities and other street language.

Jon Tracy directs the talented cast and orchestrates the action well. Nina Ball's set features a wrestling ring and two giant video screens within Aurora's intimate thrust stage. The videos are designed by Jim Gross with lighting by Kurt Landisman and costumes by Maggie Whitaker. The sound - often deafeningly loud - is by Cliff Caruthers.

Aurora usually presents interesting, provocative plays, but "The Elaborate Entrance of Chad Deity" falls short on both accounts.

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