By Kim Kalunian, WPRO News
It’s an age old question: where do the best chefs go to enjoy a meal? The same can be asked of Rhode Island’s professional actors from the Gamm and Trinity: where do they go to catch a play? The answer: Providence’s The Wilbury Theatre Group.
It’s no wonder why: The Wilbury Group is always coming up with new concepts for the fantastic plays they choose to produce. This time they’ve picked “The Elaborate Entrance of Chad Deity,” playwright Kristoffer Diaz’s Pulitzer Prize nominee in Drama for 2010.
The play is a little long at just over two hours, but it’s also hilarious, in-your-face and – perhaps surprisingly – didactic.
There’s a note in the program from Diaz, who explains that “Chad Deity” is "not a play about professional wrestling.” But it is! I mean, at its core, yes, it’s a play about attaining one’s life-long dreams and finding they’re not what they were cracked up to be. But on the surface, “Chad Deity” is a play about professional wrestling, and boy is it fun to watch.
The cast of five is solid. Jo-An Peralta, a Wilbury Favorite, leads the cast as Macedonio “Mace” Guerra, the protagonist and narrator of the play, who is based on Diaz himself. I’ve never seen Peralta in a role of this magnitude, and it was a great opportunity for him to shine.
Another standout was Bejamin Garcia, who plays Vigneshwar “VP” Padua. VP is an Indian guy from Brooklyn that Peralta’s character sees as potential pro-wrestling superstar. Garcia’s antics, from his intense glares to his ghetto-fabulous dance moves, are hilarious and spot on.
Vince Petronio plays Everett “EKO” Olsen, the Vince McMahon-type head of the fictitious THE Wrestling Corporation. Amos Hamrick is the larger-than-life Chad Deity and Stuart Wilson rounds out the cast in several hilarious smaller roles.
The cast is aided by some great audio and visual components created through a collaboration between Mike Commendator, Cyrus Leddy and Alex Gorgone, who blend pre-recorded sound and video with lighting effects and live camera shots projected onto three large screens.
The centerpiece of the show is a real wrestling ring provided by Top Rope, in which the actors get to show off their newly minted wrestling moves. Jonathan Olivera coached the men and helped them to look like pros as they took body slams and did flips in the squared circle.
The plot of "Chad Deity" tackles issues like race and the politics of success, but it’s candy-coated in a body-slamming, face-kicking shell that makes it easy to digest. Parents beware: there’s a good dose of profanity, so this one’s not for the kiddies. But for those of you who enjoy some hearty laughs rooted in racial stereotypes, outrageous antics and punchy one-liners, this play is definitely for you.
For me, The Wilbury Group’s “Chad Deity” has everything I go to the theater for: passionate performances, lots of laughs, great visuals and a take-home message. Josh Short has once again directed an excellent piece of theater that should not be missed.
“The Elaborate Entrance of Chad Deity” runs now through Feb. 9 at the Butcher Block Mill, 25 Eagle Street in Providence. For tickets and additional information, visit www.thewilburygroup.org or call 401-400-7100.
An award-winning journalist and theater critic - and a performer at heart. Kim's talents have taken her from the Macy's Thanksgiving Day Parade in NY, to stages in Boston and Providence's own Trinity Repertory.
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