Now playing at the house of Karamu, in the Jelliffe Theatre, is “The Elaborate Entrance of Chad Diety” by Kristoffer Diaz, directed by Artistic Director Terrence Spivey. This satirical look at professional wrestling was a finalist for the 2009 Pulitzer Prize. The storyteller of the evening is Macedonio Guerra, or Mace for short. Mace is a professional fall guy who narrates and participates in explaining how professional wrestling is manipulated and manufactured. Mace lives in a world dominated by Chad Diety, the resident rock star of the league, who is managed by the smarmy manager Everett K. Olson. Mace eventually brings his own discovery, a young Indian-American Brooklyn kid, into the industry. Then things get crazy when the manager decides what their personas will be, created to illicit emotional responses from the crowd based on inflammatory characters, much to the delight of the box office.
Davis Aquila, as Macedonio Guerra, has the journeyman’s share of the dialogue for the evening. Aquila colorfully tells the tale of “the elaborate deconstruction of professional wrestling.” He presents himself as vulnerable; a man who is happy to lose to make the others look better. Built like Thor, he has a very connective presence with the audience and a commanding presence in the ring. His final monologue is riveting, filled with passion and conviction.
Enter Reginald McAlpine as Chad Diety. Diety would book himself on his own cruise, and McAlpine plays his to the hilt. Donning a flashy suit and flanked by appropriately dressed ring girls (who should get a reward for walking down the ramped aisle in mile high heels), he struts and roars onto the stage and proceeds to seduce the audience with his bravado. When he is talking about his refrigerator, it is a scream. He is a man definitely impressed with the size of his……crisper. Nicely overplayed and enjoyable as heck. Mark Seven is a smarmy mess of fun as Everett K. Olson. He reminds me of a twin peaks character come to life. Seven’s flamboyant and slimy motif is a captivating characterization.
My favorite is Prophet Seay as Vigneshwar Paduar. With comedic chops in tow, he has a Bill Cosby like style and relishes in his facial machinations. However, Paduar is also effective in displaying the tougher side that eventually refuses to conform. Chase Coulter has the task of playing the American wrestlers who are cheered on by the patriot crowd and whipped into a frenzy of America Rules. He certainly proves that white men can jump and bust out some smooth moves on the ring floor. The Ring Girls, Kristen Kozak, Courtney Marshall, and Dominique Paramore, ‘werk’ the aisles and stage with fearless energy.
Terrence Spivey has presented a fascinating tale of professional wrestling and how the ideals of America play into the story. Spivey puts together an intriguing cast who fit the mold perfectly. The functional ring is impressive, along with the very effective body slams. Kudos to all for their risk taking. However, this play lives and breathes through interaction with the audience. Its pace should be as intense as the wrestling itself. It needs a rocking house to become fully engaged. The night I attended, the crowd was thin, and the magic didn’t happen. As a result, the pacing and interactive moments suffered. Even the cues seemed off. A show that is built for interaction has a tough time pushing forward without a Plan B. With a rowdy crowd, I suspect the show will be sure to ignite.
Richard H Morris, Jr. did triple duty as Scenic, Sound and Lighting Designer, all to great effect. Costume design was fierce--kudos to Malikah Johnson Spivey.
Kevin Joseph Kelly
March 14 - April 6
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Cleveland, OH 44106