Talk about a political farce! The Elaborate Entrance of Chad Deity might as well be titled Divided America in the Time of Trump as Analogized Through TV Wrestling. Cohesion Theatre’s production of the cerebral TV wrestling satire, which opened May 31 in Baltimore, is energetic and entertaining, and enthusiastically incorporates sports entertainment into traditional theater with a very clear political message.
Chad Deity, written by Netflix’s Glow creator Kristoffer Diaz, probably seemed revolutionary when it was up for the Pulitzer Prize in drama after it debuted nearly a decade ago—back when America’s racism, hypocrisy, and ignorance were more under-the-radar.
Today, with the MAGA crew brazenly embracing those un-great American qualities and the newly politically aware more vocally acknowledging the messed-up-ness of assuming, for instance, that Indian people are Islamic fundamentalists, the show packs less of a punch, even though the script is very smart.
News cycles and social media feeds are drenched with political correctness and incorrectness, and immigration and equality issues. If you’re looking for escapism from the constant political hum, Chad Deity is not it. But, if you’re looking for a polished production that wholeheartedly embraces Trump’s America and its critics via pro wrestling, go see this show.
Cohesion Theatre’s production of Chad Deity shines when its cast is in the spotlight, flinging themselves around an actual wrestling ring in the middle of the basement “fallout shelter” at United Evangelical Church in the Canton neighborhood of Baltimore. The wrestling moves and elaborate entrances are impressive and add vigor to the monologue-filled play.
The show examines what happens behind the scenes at THE Wrestling, a stand-in for World Wrestling Entertainment, through the perspective of Bronx-raised, Puerto Rican professional fall guy, Macedonio “Mace” Guerra (Christian Gonzalez). Mace considers how racial identities are manipulated, distorted and caricaturized for the sake of fake-violent entertainment, which he has had a love-hate relationship with since he was a little kid.
The “hero” of THE Wrestling is charismatic African-American wrestler Chad Deity (Tim German), who has appropriated the identity of a pummeling, “All-American” hip-hop mogul-type (more Kanye or 50 Cent than Jay-Z; definitely not Kendrick Lamar). Introduced partway through the show is a new villain, Mace’s swaggering, Brooklyn-born Indian friend VP (Jehan Sterling Silva), who THE Wrestling’s bombastic CEO (Jason Hentrich) labels “The Fundamentalist,” racially insensitively complete with a turban, Greek worry bead necklace, and yoga mat.
Each actor enthusiastically embraces his wrestling performer’s personality, creating a nice melting pot of personas. German and Silva, who radiate bravado as Chad and VP, contrast well with Gonzalez’s charisma-challenged underdog Mace. These three actors do the heavy lifting with monologues, with Gonzalez skillfully memorizing a short novel’s worth of lines. The supporting actors also make the most of their time on the sparse set, which is brought alive with excellent video montage projections by Silva and dramatic lighting by Serafina Donahue. Director Daniel Douek creatively keeps the action moving in and around the ring, as well as on an upper stage on top of what looks like a closet already in existence at the church where Cohesion performs.
As far as political theater is concerned, Chad Deity is an out-of-the-box way to experience some of America’s biggest personality flaws while enjoying a good powerbomb.
Running Time: Approximately 2 hours, with a 15-minute intermission.
The Elaborate Entrance of Chad Deity, presented by Cohesion Theatre, plays Fridays and Saturdays at 8 pm, and Sundays at 4 pm through June 17, 2018, at The Fallout Shelter at United Evangelical Church, 923 S. East Avenue, Baltimore, MD. For tickets, purchase them online.