Updated: Oct 12
OC premiere of ‘…Chad Deity’ gives us an ‘Entrance’ into the world of professional wrestling entertainment
By Eric Marchese
You might not think there’s much of a connection between the worlds of wrestling and theater, but surprise – the two have plenty in common.
If you need proof, you’ll want to stop by Chance Theater for the Orange County premiere of “The Elaborate Entrance of Chad Deity.” The 2009 Pulitzer Prize Finalist by Kristoffer Diaz follows the career of a professional “jobber” wrestler – the guy whose paid to lose to the stars and make them look good.
It’s unlikely the Chance could have found a better director for “Chad Deity” than Jeremy Aluma by virtue of his having directed the show on two previous occasions. Both productions were in Chicago and Aluma said they were on shoestring budgets and weren’t actually performed in theaters.
The first of these, he said, “was tiny,” seating only 70 patrons, while the second was also “not a proper theater venue” – a “gigantic hall-style venue, a storage building” he guesstimates could accommodate 100 to 120 audience members. While a larger space than his first time helming the show, “we had to build the theater in the space first, then design the show.”
So Aluma’s ecstatic to be creating this “Chad Deity” in an actual theater that provides him the resources he needs.
He characterizes the play as “a big show with lots of opportunities for design, especially with the fight choreography and projections” – elements that “require time, attention, resources, and skill.”
“The Chance Theater production is the largest of the three I have directed thus far, so I’m genuinely excited about that,” said Aluma. ”All of that crowd energy and excitement is going to spill over onto the actors. Audience engagement is a really important part of theater-making to me, so having a large full house of engaged theatergoers is a dream.”
The story’s protagonist is Macedonio Guerra (Rudy Solis III in the Chance production), who’s known as “Mace.” Although a superior wrestler, THE Wrestling has relegated him to the role of the villain, referred to in the sport as the “heel.” THE Wrestling goes so far as to exploit racial stereotypes, pitting the Puerto Rican Mace against Chad Deity (Londale Theus Jr.), who the company has cast in the role of the all-American hero.
Aluma said that Mace “addresses us right from the beginning,” speaking to us directly throughout the play, which “lets him tell us his story like a framing device, taking us through his own personal journey. We get to hear what’s in his head during the course of events of the play.”
Aluma said that while in grad school “more than one of my friends told me I had to read ‘Chad Deity’ as it was right up my alley. And boy, were they right. I initially fell in love with the heart, comedy, and entertainment of the play. I found it accessible, direct, hilarious, and filled with opportunities to delight and engage an audience – all things I strive for in the theater I make.”
“I love plays that talk to the audience, and engage with them. And it’s rare to find a play at this level of merit that does that. I knew my empathetic spirit, hope for this nation, and ability to direct physical comedy would be a perfect match for this show.”
A crucial aspect of the play that fascinates Aluma are the analogies it makes between the worlds of theater and wrestling: “That’s the kind of theater that I like to make – deeply personal theater that tries to engage the audience in some ways.” The play “has multiple moments of audience interaction bringing the wrestling audience and the theater audience into the same world, the same venue.”
He uses the term “communal” to describe the play and notes that “a big part of what I love about theater is sharing space, as an audience member, with others, and also the rapport between the audience and the actors.”
Aluma characterizes the show as “intense” in terms of its physical demands upon the cast. “The actors have to do this move called the ‘power bomb’: A guy gets up on another guy’s shoulders and gets dropped on his back. Diaz details how important it is to do this move and how it’s a difficult and important move.” In the script, Diaz “lays out guidance for taking this move seriously.”
Chance audiences will see the move three times – two that are in the script, the third having been added by Aluma. Because of such demands, the director will make use of his understudies, especially on days where two performances are scheduled.
A week or so before tech week, Aluma and his team got into the ring for the first time, “and it is beautiful. It’s larger, has great bounce, has a ring apron that allows actors to walk around it fully, and will be an important aspect to the excitement of the show.”
“The resources of the Chance Theater and the scale at which we are able to produce the show are the most exciting aspects of being in this specific space. This will be the first time I’ll be able to do a fully realized version of the show with the resources the show was meant for. Already, I feel like this production is able to accomplish things I only dreamed of in the previous ones.”
Eric Marchese has written about numerous subjects over more than 37 years as a freelance and staff journalist for a wide variety of publications, but is best known as a critic, feature writer and news reporter covering theater and the arts throughout Orange County and beyond.
‘The Elaborate Entrance of Chad Deity’
Chance Theater @ Bette Aitken theater arts Center on the Cripe Stage
5522 E. La Palma Ave., Anaheim
September 23-October 23
(888) 455-4212, www.chancetheater.com