The Elaborate Entrance of Chad Deity. The opening moments are pulse-poundingly exciting — music, live wrestling, flashing lights, tons of adrenaline from an already hyped-up audience. But the actual scripted beginning of the play is quiet, as a Puerto Rican kid called Mace describes his lifelong fascination with pro wrestling in an extended and appealing monologue. Now Mace is immersed in the world he so admired as a kid: He's a literal fall guy, the fighter employed to lose to the federation's star, Chad Deity — who, in fact, can't fight a lick. Then Deity swaggers down the aisle while rock music roars, tossing out hundred-dollar bills bearing his likeness, a huge gold belt accentuating his magnificently muscled torso, and the adrenaline surges again. Through the entire evening, the play's mix of emotional intensity and over-the-top theatricality grabs us in a headlock and won't let go. Mace meets a hyper-charged young Indian from Brooklyn named Vigneshwar Paduar, or VP, who's fluent in the tough-guy speak of several city neighborhoods and also a handful of foreign languages, and introduces him to league owner EKO, who soon figures out a way to make use of what he sees as the Indian's indeterminate nationality in the ring. He'll be from one of those Middle Eastern countries like Iran, Iraq, Pakistan, or — hey! — Israel. They'll dub him the Fundamentalist, and he'll fight a wholesome all-American boy. Mace, wearing an idiotic sombrero and dubbed Che-Chavez-Castro, will serve as villainous sidekick. None of this is subtle — but nor is professional wrestling's shameless dealing in prejudice and stereotype. The wonder is that so many Americans outside the wrestling scene accept these cartoonish and xenophobic ideas. The script is absorbing, funny, wicked smart. Though playwright Kristoffer Diaz's parody of the wrestling world is broad, his characters are shaded and individualized. The real brilliance of Chad Deity, however, goes beyond the script, and lies in the play's pure theatricality, the way Diaz uses the grimy, over-the-top antics of professional wrestling to tell a story with brain and heart. Presented by Curious Theatre Company through October 13, 1080 Acoma Street, 303-623-0524, www.curioustheatre.org. Reviewed September 13.
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The Threepenny Opera. In Bertolt Brecht's groundbreaking 1928 piece The Threepenny Opera, the Peachums run a begging operation, showing destitute people how to arouse sympathy in the comfortably well fed, sending them out to beg and then taking their cut. The joke is that they operate just like conventional businesspeople for whom the poor are a commodity and source of profit. Which is not to say that Brecht presents these beggars as pitiable; on the contrary, he shows that poverty and deprivation twist the soul as much as they do the body. The murderous Macheath is another kind of capitalist, king of a murky underworld of robbery, backstreet deals, prostitution and violent death. The police, represented by Macheath's old army buddy Tiger Brown, are in cahoots with Macheath. Well, at least as long as it isn't too inconvenient. When the Peachums' daughter Polly runs off and marries Macheath, her parents are outraged, and they arrange for one of his many women to betray him to the police in the hope of seeing him hanged. The dialogue is cynical, mocking all conventional ideas about love, compassion, decency and justice, and the play's structure is mocking, too, challenging the theater of Brecht's time by deliberately reminding the audience that what they're watching is an artifact and not a representation of reality, and that any idea of empathy with the characters is absurd. But the songs account in large part for this show's popularity. They're amazing: jazz-inflected, alternately melodic and raucous, sometimes accompanied by a thumping hurdy-gurdy beat. The trouble with this production is that the director doesn't seem to have decided on any specific interpretation: There's a raggedy quality to the show, and it could clearly have used a couple more weeks of rehearsal in addition to a firmer directorial hand. Presented by Miners Alley Playhouse through October 21, 1224 Washington Avenue, Golden, 303-935-3044, www.minersalley.com. Reviewed September 13.