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Arts and Entertainment

Wrestling with money, celebrity, race – ‘in a hilarious way’

  • Author: Chris Bieri
  • Updated: November 10, 2017
  • Published November 9, 2017

Enrique Bravo has a bit of a conundrum.

He's sick of smelling like IcyHot.

But the lead actor in the Perseverance Theatre's performance of "The Elaborate Entrance of Chad Deity" loves the way the production provides a one-two punch of entertainment and insight. So the bumps and bruises are worth it.

The play goes over the top rope to deliver laughs, using the rowdy and ridiculous world of professional wrestling as a platform to examine stereotypes.

"It's laugh-out-loud funny," artistic director Art Rotch said. "When you think of money, celebrity and race and where they intersect, one of those places is pro sports. This play looks at it in a really hilarious way. It's stuff that never goes out of style."

Bravo plays Macedonio Guerra, a wrestler paid to lose and make his opponent look good while doing so. Often he's taking a fall for the champ, Chad Deity, but as circumstances in the wrestling world change, so do Guerra's.

It's a role that lured Bravo in a number of ways.

"A lot of things (drew me to the role)," Bravo said. "One was the conversations in and around race that come up are very near and dear to me. Sometimes you can replace the wrestling platform and sub in acting, and it's a lot of things I've had to deal with in performance — stereotypes and dealing with those. Some things you have to do just to get by, because you're of a certain ethnicity."

It also appealed to his athletic side. Many of the actors have spent hours in the gym bulking up and retaining core strength to perform the highly physical roles of pro wrestlers.

"I did a lot of sports (growing up)," he said. "I played football, had a broken collarbone, torn ACL and a plate in my arm. I came from a sports background so to bring that mentality to the theater world, that doesn't happen very often."

The company has produced the show in Juneau from mid-September until early October and has a good grasp on what it takes to pull off, both from the actors and on the design side.

"The first thing about our cast is that they're in tip-top shape," director Shona Osterhout said. "They have to be, and they're keeping up. It's a physically demanding show."

The set includes a fully working wrestling ring and some elaborate costumes.

"It's a fun show for designers and directors," Rotch said. "The pro wrestling universe has created all sorts of genres and looks. The costume design is really brilliant. If you like old-time wrestling, there's all sorts of visual jokes. That's pretty fun, If you are a fan of theater, it's a fun sort of boundary-pusher to find out what the stage is, and if you are a fan of wrestling, it's a fun backstage story that's pretty well researched."

The play, written by Kristoffer Diaz, has been hailed for its use of humor while examining legitimate issues.

"With this particular piece, the only way the points land is through the comedy," Osterhout said. "The points and issues are very serious, but they're done in such a way that they're so ridiculous. Thank goodness it's written so beautifully. Because this wrestling match is fake, we want to see some realness so when the wrestling stops we are all ears to see what's really happening."

And the show is highly interactive. Both Bravo and Osterhout mentioned that in earlier performances, crowd members dressed up in wrestling costumes.

"You get some people showing up with luchador masks and signs," Bravo said. "I'm very actively involved with the crowd. I shatter the fourth wall as soon as the show starts."

The show was on the radar of the company almost ever since it premiered in 2009. Rotch heard about it from a friend and thought it would be a great role for Bravo, who had a friend mail him a copy of the script.

"He said 'Enrique you should do the show' and he mailed it to me," Bravo said. "I fell in love with it. You would not think the show is almost 10 years old. It's so relevant. It touches a lot of the hot buttons and issues that are going on right now. This is the first show I've gone to bat for (to play the lead) and said I'd appreciate that Art agreed to have me do it."

Osterhout said it's an entertaining show, even for those who aren't necessarily fans of wrestling.

"This is a great date-night play," she said. "It's one of those plays you can laugh at with your significant other and it has something for everyone. I don't always say that, and I've done a lot of shows. It's accessible, it's funny and It's smart."

The Elaborate Entrance of Chad Deity

When: 7:30 p.m. Friday-Saturday; 4 p.m. Sunday; 7:30 p.m. Nov. 15-18; 4 p.m. Nov. 19. There will be a pay-as-you-can preview performance 7:30 Thursday, Nov. 9.

Where: Sydney Laurence Theatre

Tickets: $19-$50 at centertix.com or ptalaska.org

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