Even if the intentions in pro wrestling were real, the sport would still be fake, and not just because hitting somebody with a folding metal chair is less common than you'd think.
The people pretending to pile-drive their opponent's persona are as deliberately packaged as anybody else who stands on a stage. Just as your typical politician isn't really who you think he is, Macedonio "Mace" Guerra isn't really who he supposedly becomes in Kristoffer Diaz's The Elaborate Entrance of Chad Deity.
Mace, an undersized but proficient Puerto Rican wrestler, serves as the professional fall guy for the ring's faux champion, a no-talent hulk named Chad Deity. Things get interesting when Mace introduces his Indian friend Vigneshwar Paduar to the promoter, who brainstorms a racially obtuse "evil" duo: Paduar gets an anti-Arab touch and becomes The Fundamentalist, with Mace as his sidekick, Che Chavez Castro.
It's a biting, satiric slam on ethnic stereotypes, relying on a racially diverse cast — which can make it harder to stage. For one thing, it's a relatively small pool of actors being targeted by troupes around the nation, many of which are performing the play at the same time.
But Chad Deity's a uniquely attractive gig for such actors, says director Chip Walton, founder of Denver's 15-year-old Curious Theatre Company, which is co-producing the play with TheatreWorks. While to a degree they're being typecast, the story allows them to explore the very idea of being typecast.
"I think there's certainly a conversation that happens a lot about actors of color playing the same roles over and over and over, because the shows that get produced that have those roles tend to be the same plays over and over," says Walton, 43, noting in our phone interview that the role of Deity calls for a black actor. This Pulitzer-finalist story, he says,"gives them a real voice inside this important dialogue; as an artist of color as opposed to just inside the world of the play."
Production-wise, the play takes an aggressive approach commiserate with its subject matter: It moves fast, with no blackouts; features real wrestlers; is set in a ring that grounds the action in place; and often calls on the audience to join the mayhem.
And, hey, if you're of a certain mindset, you'll feel right at home with the tone, according to Walton. "[Diaz] grew up on — and I did, too — on MTV and hip-hop and spoken-word and all sorts of alternative forms of culture and entertainment that don't have anything to do with George Bernard Shaw."
Perhaps because of that modernist proclivity, Chad Deity is a unique bit of technical work. There's loads of lighting effects, both live and recorded video, and all the preening grandeur one can stand.
"I think [Deity] probably has more spectacle in the show than almost any show that I can think of in recent memory," says Walton. "If you think about what might be involved in a typical entrance of a wrestler on WWE Raw or SmackDown, to a large degree, that's the world we're re-creating."