Saturday, September 1, 2012

"The Elaborate Entrance of Chad Deity" ☼ ☼ ☼ BANG BANG

Playwright Kristoffer Diaz has written that there are two categories of theater:

1) The type written by "theater people" for "theater people."

2) The type you take your Dad to.

Diaz's "The Elaborate Entrance of Chad Deity" is definitely a 1-415-CALL DAD. From the second you walk into the Aurora and see the entire floor is taken up by a wrestling ring, followed by Dave Maier's spiel as bad-guy wrestler Billy Heartland, who stalks around the ring getting the audience involved in the hi-jinx they're about to see, you know you're in for a night of fun.

But Diaz is one subversive dude. Though the show is written almost completely in monologue -- character to audience -- he lets you see what is inside these wrestlers, who are athletes at the core. Some are heroes, some are villains but all are caricatures. They love it. It's a show.

We can't write another word without mentioning the irrepressibly brilliant Tony Sancho, who plays Macedonio Guerra, known in the ring as The Mace. Sancho's performance is one for the ages, a role few people could play. He's a small athlete with a big heart, an overgrown kid who sees the world as it is and accepts his part in it -- well, almost.

Rod Gnapp always gets the Rod Gnapp parts -- the flawed coper, smarter than people think, but not quite smart enough to get out of the hole he's dug himself into. In this case, Gnapp is the empressario of The Wrestling. He's a kind of Sol Hurok for the common man, full of life and mindful of his audience. Beethovan Oden as idol Chad Deity (who has a dollar sign painted on his shorts) and Nasser Khan as Vigneshwar Paduar, whose hysterical transformation into the wrestler known as The Terrorist, tell us all we need to know about Kristoffer Diaz's politics. The entire cast is a total joy.

If there is a flaw it is in Act Two. We are not in an art house here, it's a wrestling match. We want to know what happens to Mace, but instead we get the ol' Maybe This-Maybe That. This show is for Dad, remember? Dad likes answers, not questions.

But everything else about Chad Deity -- set (Nina Ball), lights (Kurt Landisman), direction (Jon Tracy) and belly laugh dialogue -- make us love this show, flaws and all. Diaz is telling us to look past the dollar sign on Chad Deity's booty and go for the heart.

The San Francisco Theater Blog Awards Division insists on the Two BANGLES of PRAISE, one for Macedonio Guerra and one for Che Chavez Castro, both whom are played by Tony Sancho. But the questionable ending costs the show a star -- fix it and we've got a Four Star Two BANGLE lollapalooza. For now, we'll settle for calling up everyone's Dad and telling him we've got a show he and his family are not going to want to miss.

"The Elaborate Entrance of Chad Deity"
The Aurora Theater
2081 Addison Street, Berkeley
Through Sept. 30

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