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You don’t go to Curious Theatre Company for a languid night out. While the productions are always entertaining and exceedingly well acted, Curious’ shows are equally thought-provoking and forceful. That theater tradition continues with The Elaborate Entrance of Chad Deity (running through October 13).
The plot: Mace, a Puerto Rican wrestler (played by Michael Lopez, pictured left), is discouraged by his role as the predetermined patsy to superstar wrestler Chad Deity (Patrick Byas, pictured above). But when Mace teams up with his Indian-American friend VP (Akshay Kapoor, pictured right) to create wrestling personas as America-hating Muslim fundamentalists, his career trajectory takes some unexpected turns. (Heads up: The show does contain actual wrestling onstage.)
To just explain the plot does the play—a Pulitzer Prize finalist—a disservice. At its core, Chad Deity is a story about ethnic inequality and the stereotypes that perpetuate our culture. Mace habitually keeps his mouth shut as the boss (played by William Hahn) lobs one racial epithet after another his way. VP attempts to fight back—only to have his dim-witted boss completely miss the point. And then there’s Chad Deity, the cocky showman who speaks in the third person and is just there for the show.
A story as layered and present as this one could easily overreach—with the jokes, with the tone, with the point. Thanks to subtle yet commanding performances from every actor, Chad Deity avoids those potential pitfalls. Lopez (Mace), in particular, deserves recognition. The play rests primarily on his shoulders as he often speaks directly to the audience in monologue. Lopez manages to make you feel as though he’s chatting with you across the bar. Byas, Kapoor, and Hahn add a good balance of humor when necessary, but also manage to maintain the necessary seriousness for such a momentous topic.
Chad Deity‘s only flaw is that it hits the hammer on the head a little too hard in the final scenes; leaving more interpretation up to the audience would have served the play well. But if there’s an important point to be made—and made loud and clear—it’s that accepting each other’s differences as assets can only make us better as individuals and stronger as a nation.
—Images courtesy of Michael Ensminger
Follow assistant editor Daliah Singer on Twitter at @daliahsinger.