Review by Tulis McCall
(26 May 2010)
Oh, this is just a silly play. It gets very close to satire, which is what I think the author intended, but it never quite achieves the gold belt on that one.
This is the back-story of a wrestling organization. Our guide through the maze is Macedonio Guerra (Desmin Borges ), who is the number two man in all that he takes on. He is the man who helps the champion kick his butt. He is the one who pads the front office with ideas that are rarely used. He sees the game for what it is and wonders why he is in it.
In between reflections Mace takes us on a journey to meet Chad Deity (Terence Archie) who is the reigning champion of The Wrestling. His MO is charm. He is good looking, charismatic and minimal in his moves. He doesn’t like to break a sweat and would prefer a few simple moves that his opponents know well. They offer the crowd pleasure without the risk of seriously hurting the other man in the ring. We also meet the Boss Everett K. Olson (Michael T. Weiss) who is under the impression that he singlehandedly invented this kind of wrestling. For Olson, his brand of wrestling evokes America. This wrestling is what makes soldiers remember why they are fighting. This wrestling is open to anyone who wants a stab at it. This wrestling defeats demons. Period.
Into this troika comes Vigneshwar Paduar (Usman Ally) who is a neighborhood basketball player looking for an audience. Mace hears about him through his brothers, and when he finds VP a deal is born. VP speaks several languages; he is a smart athlete; he is ready to take a chance and try on a new skin. The Boss, in his own twisted fashion, decides the time is right for a buy from the Middle East (VP is from India but The Boss calls him a “Paki”). VP is labeled and into the ring he goes.
This is all in the first act which barrels along like a line backer. The second act unfolds in a slightly slower fashion with less energy. VP makes it into the ring and then gets out to live to tell the tale. Mace, left behind, has been changed but still chooses the shoddy set-up that delights people with too much time on their hands who want to think about nothing more complicated than a little brute force in bright lights.
While all the performers are clearly having a great time, it is in some ways Desmin Borges who has the largest task as he is our tour guide. Borges seems to have taken a page out of In The Heights for his narration style. It doesn’t quite work here because he is adding a layer of external ignorance onto his character – and Mace is not dumb at all. He is tragic, but not dumb. He makes choices. He is not a victim. More focus here would have prepared us for the conclusion, which seems to come from nowhere.
And in some ways – this play within a play is delivering the exact product to the New York audience that it is delivering to the wrestling audience with mixed results. Most of the people laughing, and there were a lot of them, were very young. They were diggin’ the physical action big time. The body slams in and out of the ring (expertly created by David Woolley) are plenty, and after each the men get up and have another go. This is the Three Stooges in spandex.
It’s a guy thing.