New Perseverance satire wrestles with style, substance and identity

A satirical play with a megalomaniac title character who talks about himself in the third person opens this Friday at Perseverance Theatre.

While “The Elaborate Entrance of Chad Deity” takes place in a professional wrestling ring, the men in tiny tight outfits explore ethnic politics, celebrity and American culture.

A professional wrestling ring may not be where one expects to find fine art that deals with issues like these.

But, according to play director Shona Osterhout, they’re complementary.

Enrique Bravo rehearses as Macedonio “Mace” Guerra in Perseverance’s production of “The Elaborate Entrance of Chad Deity.” Note these are rehearsal photos without completed sets or costumes. (Photo by Cam Byrnes/Perseverance Theatre)

“Wrestling is, and I am going to air quote this and I’m not trying to spoil anything, it’s fake, right? It’s make believe. It’s theater,” Osterhaut said. “Then you have a play — a piece of theater — on top of a piece of theater. Then you have these layers of what I like to call masks, right? You get to peel all of these layers back and see actually what the real story is.”

In an interview with the Actors Theatre of Louisville, playwright Kristoffer Diaz described the main character, Mace, as a Puerto Rican pro-wrestler from the Bronx.

“Who is really good at the wrestling, part of professional wrestling, and he comes to find out that the wrestling part is a very small part of it,” Diaz said. The part of interacting with an audience, being charismatic — those are the big factors for somebody’s success.”

In Juneau, Enrique Bravo plays Mace.

His counterpart, superstar wrestler Chad Deity, is played by San Diego-based actor Vamel Sephus.

“Chad is the face of the league,” Sephus said. “He’s The Rock, your Hulk Hogan, your Stone Cold Steve Austin. Anyone of those guys who you think of as the champ — he is the champ.”

To exemplify the part, Sephus spoke in his character’s voice.

Chad Deity was hanging out with his boy, Derek Jeter, the other day,” Sephus said in character as Deity. “Chad Deity’s boy, Derek Jeter, turned to Chad Deity and said, ‘Chad Deity, you’re the champion and the ladies’ man and the media icon I’ve always wanted to be.’ And Chad Deity turned to his boy Derek Jeter and said, ‘Chad Deity knows Derek Jeter. Chad Deity knows.’”

Beyond examining a megalomaniac who talks about himself in the third person, playwright Diaz, who was raised in the Bronx and is of Puerto Rican decent, points out additional themes.

“It’s also about racial politics, ethnic politics, America, celebrity, opulence, money, all that kind of good stuff,” said Diaz in an interview with the Dallas Theater Center.

And the set at Perseverance Theatre?

“It’s a 65,000-seat stadium with a huge ring,” Sephus said.

“As an audience member you are invited to participate. We want it,” Osterhout added. “This is a play where you want to get involved because it’s just going to be more fun for you — it’s going to land fun for you. You’re coming to a wrestling match, and a play happens.”

Tom Robenolt rehearses as Everett K. Olson, and Richard Jay Carter as “The Bad Guy.” These are rehearsal photos without completed sets or costumes. (Photo by Cam Byrnes/Perseverance Theatre)

“Scream, yell. Cheer on the champ, boo for the bad guy,” Sephus said.

“The Bad Guy” is played by Richard Jay Carter. Additional cast include Tom Robenolt at Everett K. Olson, and Jacob Athyal as Vigneshwar Paduar.

Perseverance Theatre’s production of “The Elaborate Entrance of Chad Deity” opens 7:30 p.m. Friday.

There are also pay-as-you-can previews 7:30 tonight and Thursday. The play runs through October 7.

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