Diaz's rude, rough and irreverent satire on the world of professional
wrestling body-slams its way into the Geffen Playhouse, literally knocking
conventional theatre for a loop. First performed in Chicago, then at Second
Stage in NYC, the Pulitzer-nominated play stars Desmin Borges as Mace,
a motor-mouth journeyman wrestler who not only narrates the story in breathless
hip-hop fashion but takes regular dives in the ring. Borges is brilliant
in the role, using his considerable verbal and physical gifts to carry
the story on his shoulders. He is backed up in splendid fashion by EKO
(Steve Valentine), the brash, cynical head of THE Wrestler, the company
that employs Mace and a stable of other wrestlers who fight under names
like The Bad Guy, Heartland and Old Glory.
Topping the company slate is Chad Deity (Terence Archie), a muscle-bound,
show-offy African-American who is proud to tell you that he never loses
a rigged match. Which is why he resents it when Mace introduces his protege
to EKO, an Indian-American, Brooklyn-born street hustler named VP (short
for Vigneshwar Paduar). VP can't wrestle worth a lick, but the opportunistic
EKO sees a big future for him as The Fundamentalist, an Arab terrorist
every fan will love to hate.
Mace has moral qualms about this. Fake personas are okay in the world
of wrestling; it's just showbiz after all. But at least Chad Deity and
the other headliners can wrestle, unlike The Fundamentalist, who is more
lover than fighter. How can a fraud like that be allowed to beat the reigning
champ, Chad Deity? And how can Mace in all good conscience pretend to
be The Fundamentalist's sidekick and fellow-villain, Che Chavez Castro?
CHAD DEITY'S storyline is on the shallow side, but it is executed in such
snappy, hilarious fashion that you can forgive its shortcomings. Thanks
to Edward Torres's expert direction, Peter Negrini's three-sided video
projections, Brian Sidney Bembridge's steel-beamed set and Christina H.
Jones's gloriously kitschy costumes, Diaz's play gets a spirited, crowd-pleasing
(Geffen Playhouse, 10886 Le Conte Ave, Westwood. 310-208-5454 or geffenplayhouse.com)