You're sitting in a large, dimly lit, nearly empty room, upstairs in an old warehouse in a nondescript section of the city. In the middle of the room, there is what looks like a wrestling ring, surrounded by chairs eagerly waiting for an audience of spectators. Finally, the lights dim and in walks a masked man in wrestling trunks. Only, you aren't at a wrestling match. You're at the The Wilbury Group's production of Kristoffer Diaz's The Elaborate Entrance of Chad Deity.
It doesn't take long for the wrestler, Macedonio "Mace" Guerra, to introduce himself and begin to tell his story, a tale of lifelong love and passion for the sport and art of wrestling. He speaks about his childhood, growing up watching wrestlers and idolizing the athletes, wanting to be one of them. Eventually, he segues into his own experiences in the world of THE Wrestling, clearly a fictional equivalent to the real professional wrestling organizations such as WWF or WWE.
Along the way, there's a motley crew of wrestling characters, including Everet "EKO" K. Olsen, the Vince McMahon character, and Chad Deity, the champion and most popular athlete and performer in the sport. When Mace meets Vigneshwar "VP" Padua, things change drastically as Mace and VP are thrust into the spotlight, with results that are surprising and heartbreaking for the two men.
Unfortunatley, playwright Diaz has crafted something that is less like a play and more like a group therapy session for unsuccessful professional wrestlers. Mace spends the entire play telling his story directly to the audience and while narration can be an effective tool in many instances, here it is just too much. The best moments, and there are great moments, are when it stops and actual scenes take place, with actors getting to actually act.
Diaz breaks one of the cardinal rules of playwriting: show, don't tell. Instead, the audience is told everything and very little is actually shown happening. Characters even go so far as to say things like "And then I told him, I told him everything." It would be much better to actually show us the characters interacting, telling each other what they have to say. Additionally, on more than one occasion, he breaks another important writing rule: don't take twenty pages to say something you could say in five.
On the other hand, Diaz does show flashes of real talent as a writer. There are a number of laugh out loud moments and some very witty and funny lines and one-liners. He's also an equal-opportunity offender, not letting anyone escape the touch of his satirical wit. It's unfortunate that all the good is so lost in the sometimes boring narration and the weighty themes being pounded over and over into the audience until they are ready to submit.
Luckily, The Wilbury Group has assembled a great cast of high-energy, charismatic actors who have the talent for comic one-liners and pile-drivers on the wrestling mat. Jo-an Peralta is great as our storyteller, Mace, who is just trying to live his dream at any cost. Peralta plays all the sides of Mace well, from the sarcastic, witty narrator to the angry young man who is sick of selling his soul to the devil. Amos Hamrick is also fabulous as the titular wrestler, Chad Diety. He embodies all the arrogance and ego of our real-life professional athletes, form his overblown entrance into the ring to his habit of referring to himself in the third person.
As the smarmy, sleazy owner of THE Wrestling, Vince Petronio does a great job playing the fast-talking salesman, always thinking first about the bottom line. Benjamin Gracia has as much charisma and energy as all his cast-mates combined, and then some, as Vigneshwar "VP" Padua. Gracia gets the chance to show off his great dance moves, acting talent and comic chops in a role that is likely pretty fun to play.
Wilbury has done their best with this production, for example, creating hilarious and brilliant videos that accompany wrestler entrances. While they give it their all and do the play justice as much as they can, the play is just too long, too overstuffed with themes and messages and about as subtle as a roundhouse kick to the face. There's just too much working against it for Chad Diety to win the championship belt.
The Wilbury Group has announced an extension of The Elaborate Entrance of Chad Diety. Performanes now run through February 16 at The Wilbury Group performance space at Butcher Block Mill, 25 Eagle St., Providence, RI. Tickets are $15 and $20 and are available by calling (401) 400-7100 or online at www.thewilburygroup.org.