The Elaborate Entrance of Chad Deity at Mixed Blood Theatre

Mixed Blood may just have the most eclectic tastes of any theater I’ve reviewed in the Twin Cities, finding little gems that beautifully reflect their larger mission, while providing us with fine entertainment. With The Elaborate Entrance of Chad Deity they’ve launched a play about wrestlers that even I totally enjoyed.

To explain. I can’t stand professional wrestling. I literally would not walk across the street to see it, and I flip through channels that show it as fast as I cruise by the scary monsters eating people on the SciFi channel. This play is different. It’s smart, it’s insightful, it’s entertaining, and there wasn’t even that much wrestling in it.

Kristoffer Diaz, a Minneapolis Playwrights Center Jerome Fellow, grew up loving the sport, and it’s hard not to catch the spirit of pro wrestling’s charged atmosphere in this performance, especially when it’s clear that Diaz sees right through the face of wrestling-as-sport into wrestling-as-entertainment, every bit as engineered and directed behind the scenes as any piece of theater.

But that by itself would not hold our attention, even for this relatively short play. What’s so interesting is the straightforward way in which Diaz handles the real topic of the play – racial stereotypes – laying it all out, so there can be no mistake. And because its good satire, it’s also laugh-out-loud funny.

Ansa Akyea gives us a buff, charismatic, ever-smiling Chad Deity that screams “I’m the good guy, even though I’m not much of a wrestler.” Professional wrestler, William Borea plays three different bad guys, who aren’t all that different from one another really, but then they’re bad guys. They’re also much better wrestlers than the good guy, and even though we know we’re supposed to “boo,” so we do, we like these challengers just as much as our hero. Skilled athletes jut can’t win too often; it might not be good for business.

Gerardo Rodriquez is wonderfully engaging as the Latino wrestling enthusiast, Macedonio Guerra. He sets up the narration device that the characters share in, offering their own commentary on the business at hand. It’s a constant reminder that good guys and bad guys – even the specifics of their phony personas – are not about authenticity. The point is: what’s going to get the crowd going?

Just to keep it interesting, there’s an Indian character, Vigneshwar Paduar, played by Shalinn Agarwal, who doesn’t have a chance in this world of stereotypical caricatures, but being good, as we know, is not necessarily the point. Agarwal adds to the absurdity of the whole thing with a deadpan adherence to his role on stage. The most incisive satire in the play lives in this character.

Edwin Stout as Everett K. Olson, the announcer, is just slippery enough to grease the action with his smooth moves and announcer voice – also stereotypical, and therefore genuinely amusing.

My one criticism is that the ending hit me as abrupt. I felt like the story was building to an Act II match that really would get the whole audience worked up into a frenzy. That didn’t happen, so those of you who are much too Midwestern for public demonstrations of emotions are perfectly safe. But you’ll have more fun if you at least cheer and jeer appropriately.

Chad Deity runs through May 2.

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