When the Wyly theater was constructed I remember being excited about the building and its architecture, even more than the other venues in the Arts District. Its unique design and resemblance to a Borg Cube made it fascinating in my eyes.
But one thought I had was, “This is a cool place – but once it’s finished I’ll never be able to afford to see a play in such an expensive and opulent venue.”
I was wrong. Sure, there are plenty of expensive seats at the shows at the Wyly, but if you play your cards right you can get in inexpensively. You can get in cheaper than a 3-D movie. We saw The Tempest there a while back for only a few measly bucks. Today, we saw a play that I had never heard of, The Elaborate Entrance of Chad Deity, for… well, for whatever I felt like paying.
The operators of the Wyly, The Dallas Theater Center, have these Pay What You Can Nights – so I logged in and bought a couple tickets. I thought for a minute about how much to pay… and ended up paying less than I should have but more than I could have. There is a thin line between cheap and poor.
At any rate, we took the DART train down to the Arts District. There was a lot going on – the Friday night late night music, food trucks, crowds, and a preview (A Glimpse) of the upcoming Aurora light and sound installation/exhibition (which I do not want to miss again this year).
We walked past the giant floating red/orange jellyfish writhing in the air outside the theater and went in to take our seats.
The play is about wrestling. I have never been a big fan of the “sport” (though it is in my blood, I guess, I’ll post something about that this weekend). The play was a blast, though.
The Wyly can best be described as a theater machine. The entire interior of the building is infinitely reconfigurable. For this play it was set up as seats surrounding a real wrestling ring, and one side would open up, the seats sliding sideways, to allow the wrestlers to enter through a cloud of smoke. High above were four giant video screens showing the wrestler’s publicity films or the output from handheld cameras showing the action in the ring or the announcing outside.
The narrator of the story is the wrestler Macedonio Guerra, known as Mace, who is a professional loser. He is so skilled that he makes the headline wrestler look good, even when he’s lousy. Wrestling has been Mace’s lifelong dream, and although he has a lot of complaints, he is quiet about them. He doesn’t want to upset the apple cart and lose whatever sliver of his dreams he is allowed to keep.
The first half of the play is a colorful, funny exposé of the funhouse mirror world of professional wresting – where money is king, and the performers are a brotherhood dedicated not to winning, but to entertaining, telling a story, and making sure nobody gets hurt.
After the intermission things get more confused and serious and Mace is inevitably faced with the need to make a choice and decide whether he will have to abandon the moral neutral ground he has been hiding in and take some sort of stand. There also is some real wrestling, which is rousing, fast, and exciting, even if it isn’t a real sport.
Every body in the hall had a hell of a good time, learned a little, and left smiling.
What shocked me was the number of empty seats. The performance was on a pleasant Friday evening, in the midst of an Arts District full of fun things to do, and cost, potentially, pennies. Why wasn’t every seat taken? I never understand why more folks don’t go to live theater. They pay more money than this to go to a crowded suburban googleplex to see the newest remake of some scumsucking hollywood slimebucket and eat stale popcorn while listening to teenagers’ phones going off.
Grow a pair, do something different, go see some live entertainers. You will be glad you did.