10886 Le Conte Ave.
Los Angeles, CA 90024
Region: Out of Town
Samuel Goldwyn is famously quoted as snarling, "If you want to send a message, use Western Union." As demonstrated by Kristoffer Diaz's vibrant and vastly entertaining satire of TV wrestling, sometimes a stage will do just fine. In fact, Diaz's play is all about messages, specifically the incendiary and rabble-rousing kind producers use to boost ratings for the small screen's most popular pseudo-sport. In the case of Diaz's THE Wrestling franchise, no cultural stereotype is too low or harebrained for exploitation. For wrestler Macedonio "Mace" Guerra (Desmin Borges), that makes working for THE's supercilious promoter, Everett K. Olson (Steve Valentine), a mixed blessing. Though Mace is little more than ring dressing to make THE's untalented but charismatic marquee name, Chad Deity (Terence Archie), look good, the Puerto Rican Guerra is a wrestling purist. Even as a child in the Bronx he understood that, beneath the bombastic spectacle, wrestling is the kind of narrative art form with which he can "tell stories." He finally gets his chance when he recruits swaggering hoops sensation Vigneshwar "VP" Paduar (Usman Ally), a second-generation South Asian from Mumbai, who is a street-savvy, polyglot chameleon on Brooklyn's melting-pot courts. The pair become overnight TV stars, but only after Olson rechristens them as crudely demeaning pastiches of Muslim-terrorist-communist anti-American bogeymen. Though buoyed by an outstanding ensemble, it is Borges' spirited and captivating portrait of the artist as a frustrated storyteller that carries the show. Director Edward Torres' taut staging rarely falters in a production graced by Brian Sidney Bembridge's wonderfully hyperbolic wrestling-ring set, Jesse Klug's glitzy and glossy lights and costumer Christina Haatainen Jones' marvelously kitsch creations. Geffen Playhouse, 10886 Le Conte Ave., Westwood; Tues.-Fri., 8 p.m., Sat., 3 & 8 p.m., Sun., 2 & 7 p.m; thru Oct. 9. (310) 208-5454, geffenplayhouse.com.
Tuesdays-Fridays, 8 p.m.; Saturdays, 3 & 8 p.m.; Sundays, 2 & 7 p.m. Starts: Sept. 7. Continues through Oct. 9, 2011