Calling "The Elaborate Entrance of Chad Deity" a play about professional wrestling is like saying "The Crucible" is about the Salem witch trials: perfectly accurate, and completely missing the point.
A finalist for the Pulitzer Prize in 2010, this brawny and brainy comedy by Kristoffer Diaz takes the audience inside a WWE-like outfit called THE Wrestling, which the playwright exploits shamelessly as a metaphor for everything he sees as wrong with America, starting with a preference for simplistic illusion over complex reality.
Not that "Elaborate Entrance" — which makes a dynamic season finale for Tempe's Stray Cat Theatre — is just a smug hatefest directed at a lowbrow entertainment tradition. The play's protagonist and narrator, a support player at THE Wrestling named Macedonio "the Mace" Guerra (Cisco Saavedra), is an eloquent defender of the faux sport as a storytelling art form.
As cultural criticism, Diaz's play is only slightly more subtle than the wrestling world he is satirizing, but there is something surprisingly refreshing about that. He has points to make and he makes them without apology or obfuscation, but in consistently entertaining fashion, despite the fact that the monolog-heavy script has a lot more talk than action.
Stray Cat's production is well executed, with sure-handed direction by Ron May and a great wrestling-ring set designed by Eric Beeck.
Fortunately, the material is potent enough to shine through, and in its best moments, this production crackles with electricity. Keath David Hall earns big laughs as a trio of stereotyped wrestling characters: the Bad Guy, Billy Heartland and Old Glory. And the charismatic Gillett is just about perfect for the role of Chad Deity, a blinged-out narcissist who has all the swagger of Muhammad Ali but none of the moves.
THIS IS AN ABRIDGED VERSION OF THE ORIGINAL REVIEW - READ IT IN ITS ENTIRETY BELOW
Review: Stray Cat Theatre's 'Chad Deity'