As a sometimes follower of professional wrestling, I’ve always found it to be a particular kind of American theater, full of drama, conflict and (often awful) humor.
OK, there’s a higher percentage of loud rock music, pyro and heavily greased guys, but still. In that way, I’m an ideal audience for Kristoffer Diaz’s “The Elaborate Entrance of Chad Deity,” now playing at Mixed Blood Theatre. The show is obviously the product of a fan, who loves pro wrestling warts and all. And Diaz uses the format to tell and entertaining and insightful story about the different interpretations of the American Dream.
“Chad Deity” is narrated by Macedonio Guerra, a talented mid-carder for The Wrestling, the No. 1 promotion in the United States. Guerra’s main job is to make the top-line talent look better in the ring. And no one is more top-line than The Wrestling’s champ, Chad Deity, who has the look, charisma and skills on the microphone for a superstar. What he doesn’t have is the in-ring ability, which is where Guerra comes into the picture.
As a lifelong fan, Guerra is thrilled to be working in wrestling, but he can’t help but feel a bit pushed down, especially by Everett K. Olson, the promotion’s overbearing boss. Guerra’s chance for a new push comes from Vigneshwar Paduar, an athletic Indian youth with charisma to spare. Olson is intrigued, but in typical wrestling fashion, the Indian becomes a Middle-Eastern terrorist while Puerto Rican Guerra transforms into a Mexican/Cuban revolutionary. Still, they quickly find themselves immersed in a “program” with the champion himself.
The social and racial politics of the show are never far from the surface here, as Diaz uses the simplified world of professional wrestling to look at the larger issues in the country. And it’s no accident that the audience sympathizes more with Guerra and Paduar, who in the ring are the “heels” of that story.
The main quartet of performers easily slips into their roles, both in the highly stylized world of professional wrestling and the occasional glimpses into the real person below. Ansa Akyea as Chad Deity and Edwin Strout as Olson make for a fine establishment tag team for the others to war against.
Gerardo Rodriguez makes for a friendly guide through the tangled world of professional wrestling, while also letting Guerra’s growing frustration shine through. The real breakout is Shalin Agarwal, who is absolutely convincing as the young, cocky and thoughtful Paduar. (Also, give credit to William Borea, who plays the rest of the wrestlers, from eternal jobber Joe Jabroni to sacrificial lambs Old Glory and Billy Heartland.) Considering that professional wrestling has, at best, a troubled history with ethnic minorities, “The Elaborate Entrance of Chad Deity” has a surprisingly light tone. The tone works perfectly with the deeper issues at hand here, and gives the usually staid Minnesotan audience a chance to cheer and boo, even though who deserves which is sometimes muddled.
“The Elaborate Entrance of Chad Deity” runs through May 2 at the Mixed Blood Theatre, 1501 S. 4th St., Minneapolis. Tickets are $11 to $25. For information, call 612-338-6131 or visit online.