Firehouse Theatre Project, touted as Off-Broadway on Broad Street, was transformed from a decommissioned fire station to an intimate theatre space in the early 1990s. And for Kristoffer Diaz's THE ELABORATE ENTRANCE OF CHAD DEITY, a 2010 finalist for the Pulitzer Prize for Drama, the space has changed once again to take on the persona of a small wrestling arena. A serviceable ring complete with ringside seats brings greater authenticity to the "main event." But outside the ring, Edwin Slipek's set design feels neglected.

Diaz is from a new generation of playwrights that are breaking the conventions of traditional theatre. DEITY breaks the fourth wall often, sometimes without making a distinction, and begs for audience participation, while relying on some improvisational skill from the performers on stage.

The fight choreography is a true spectacle and about as hard-hitting as Monday Night RAW thanks to James Long, a professional wrestler better known as Paredyse, who also dives into the ring with dramatic flair as "The Bad Guy," "Billy Heartland" and "Old Glory."

Adding to the credibility of the event are the flamboyant costumes by Starrene Foster that conjure nostalgic memories of wrestlers like Rey Misterio and Eddie Guerrero, and sometimes...Wonder Woman.

Unfortunately, the script fails to offer much substance for the performers, who all do a commendable job under the direction of Kerry McGee.

Axle Burtness (Macedonio "The Mace" Guerro), the smaller-framed underdog of the ring, serves as the narrator and does a great job ritualizing the sport of wrestling. His energy is high at the start but fluctuates during Mace's longer-winded monologues. Josh Marin (Chad Deity) makes an elaborate entrance, rapping and dancing his way into the ring with charisma, displaying a full range of performance talent. Nicklas Aliff (Everett K. Olson) is distinctly loud and obtrusive as the owner of THE wrestling federation. Mauricio Marcés (Vigneshwar Paduar) is charming as the fast-talking, multi-lingual "kid" that becomes Mace's project.

The real stars of CHAD DEITY, though, are the audio and visual effects by Joey Luck and Ben Burke. Luck's sound design infuses great sound effects and original music, and Burke's videos highlight the farcical nature of wrestling.

Behind the confetti cannons, hip-hop music, fake dollar bills and the guise of wrestling, there is an exploration of socioeconomic and geopolitical attitudes on display-only it's an incomplete exploration with little emotional payoff.

DEITY is wildly entertaining and hard-hitting inside the ring, but outside the ring offers little to invest in.


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Jeremy Bustin Jeremy Bustin is a speechwriter and public relations representative for one of the largest employers in Virginia. He has contributed as a writer for AltDaily, an ultra-independent magazine founded in Norfolk. Outside of his professional life, he dabbles in theatre, both as a spectator and a performer. Jeremy wasn't bitten by the 'bug' until his early twenties when he saw Matthew Broderick and Nathan Lane in The Producers. And ever since, he's had a secret desire to be a Broadway producer. Though he hasn't achieved that dream yet, he has performed in numerous local productions. He feels fortunate to live in a city with such a thriving theatre community and with so much talent. Jeremy holds a Master's of Strategic Public Relations from The George Washington University. In addition to theatre and earning a living, he enjoys creative writing and is currently working on a psychological thriller. He's been working on the same novel for nearly five years and promises to finish it soon. Jeremy lives in Richmond, Virginia.

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