BY MICHAEL SOMMERS
OFF BROADWAY REVIEW
Any lingering scent from the effete "Mr. & Mrs. Fitch" has been blasted away by the testosterone pumping through Second Stage's latest attraction, "The Elaborate Entrance of Chad Deity," a satirical look at American wrestling culture that opened there on Thursday.
Newcomer playwright Kristoffer Diaz was named a 2010 Pulitzer Prize finalist for his tumultuous study in greed, racism, violence and, oh yes, the American dream of success.
Don't let that accolade get in your way of enjoying either this beefy (if overlong) play or its rip-roaring production by Edward Torres, who staged the world premiere for Victory Gardens Theater in Chicago.
A savage cartoon, the story is narrated by Mace (Desmin Borges), a Puerto Rican pro wrestler whose underdog job is to make flashier but less proficient associates look like superstars in the ring. Major case in point is the current black champion Chad Deity (Terence Archie), who knows only one killer move but otherwise boasts all the charisma needed to be a money machine for the arrogant white CEO (Michael T. Weiss) of his wrestling organization.
The racial angle becomes crucial when Mace discovers in Brooklyn one Vigneshwar Paduar (Usman Ally), a way cool Indian-American dude with fabulous potential to be a hot new wrestling icon. But the CEO successfully twists VP's wrestling identity into The Fundamentalist, a bearded Muslim terrorist who wreaks havoc among all-American heroes in the federation (all amusing portrayed by Christian Litke) - with Mace disguised as his slimy Mexican revolutionary of a manager.
No good can come from this money-grubbing scheme, and it sure doesn't.
Diaz writes flavorfully, energetically and with an insightful view of both the wrestling racket and cultural politics. The play's episodes unfold abstractly in and around a ring, employing projection screens for live video and for filmed sequences showcasing the hoopla staged around each wrestler. Diaz tends to make his thematic points early and often, however, so the play could easily shed 30 minutes or so.
Torres and his designers unleash a raucous mix of flashy sights and loud sounds to realize the story's violently theatrical world. The wrestling moves created by fight director David Woolley look terribly real. The actors are highly engaging individuals and depict their characters fiercely, with Borges a particular standout as the sad-eyed, motor-mouthed Mace who relates his loquacious insider's viewpoints with rueful charm.
"The Elaborate Entrance of Chad Deity" continues through June 20 at Second stage Theatre, 305 W. 43rd St., New York. Call (212) 246-4422 or visit www.2st.com.
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