Big body slams in Woolly Mammoth's extreme satire

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Entertainment,Barbara Mackay

If you find most theater tame and are not afraid to admit that you're drawn to professional wrestling on television, you should head to the Woolly Mammoth Theatre, where Kristoffer Diaz's satirical "The Elaborate Entrance of Chad Deity" is now playing.

Set in that hyper-energetic television wrestling world, "Chad Deity" takes place on an unconventional set. Misha Kachman transforms the Woolly Mammoth space into something that feels more like an arena than a theater.

The main character of "Chad Deity" is the narrator, Mace (Jose Joaquin Perez), who appealingly bares his soul for us to hear. He plays the fall-guy for the successful "THE" Wrestling League, run by E.K.O. (Michael Russotto). A Puerto Rican kid who adored wrestling as a child, Mace doesn't mind being the one who takes the falls while the hulking champ, Chad Deity (Shawn T. Andrew), always comes out the winner. At the beginning, Mace believes that just being around wrestling is enough.

Yet when Mace discovers an Indian-American Brooklyn boy, VP (Adi Hanash), who is as appealing as Chad, Mace decides to get him a job in the company. But E.K.O., whose interests run only to the commercial, decides to advertise Mace and VP as terrorists, appealing to a new, untapped crowd.

Onstage
'The Elaborate Entrance of Chad Deity'
Where: Woolly Mammoth Theatre, 641 D Street NW
When: Through Oct. 7
Info: 202-393-3939; woollymammoth.net

"Chad Deity" does some things very well, for instance attacking the mythology of wrestling, the use of ethnic stereotypes, America's addiction to superstars. Under John Vreeke's skilled direction, its acting is superb, particularly on the part of Perez and Hanash.

Best of all, it gives a voice to Mace's disgust with wrestling's dishonesty. He contends throughout that he cherishes most that wrestling is about community, the fact that one wrestler is meaningless without the other one to create a fight. Perez is brilliant when he delivers a speech near the end of the play, letting loose his hatred of the people who are in wrestling only for money, prestige and power.

Unfortunately, "Chad Deity" runs too long, undermining the super punch it could have. But Diaz's caricatures, his unique language and his creation of two taking, innovative characters (Mace and VP) makes Diaz's a gritty, powerful voice worth hearing.

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