Theater for the People: The Interrobangers & Chaotic Wrestling

As a former theater kid, I have a lifelong love of the theater and a sense of ongoing sadness that most theater is inaccessible to most people. I mean, yeah, there are often cheap student tickets available (but, of course, 50% of people in the USA don’t attend 4-year colleges), and if you jump on something quickly, you can sometimes find a ticket for 30 or 40 bucks, but for most professional performances in the Boston area, anyway, you’re looking at between 75 and 150 bucks per ticket.

So I’m always interested in efforts to make theater more accessible. I recently saw The Interrobangers, by M. Sloth Levine at the Boston Public Library. Tickets were pay-what-you-want, and, as a result of this (as well as the subject matter, probably), the crowd skewed much younger than a typical theater performance.

The show was a lot of fun. It’s essentially Scooby-Doo, except the real mystery is how do you make a place for yourself as a queer young person. Well, there’s another mystery too, but the mystery of going from kid to adult with queerness thrown in the mix is the main point. The tech was fantastic, starting with the amazing dog puppet and continuing with great sets and some other puppetry that I daren’t describe because spoilers.

Trying to make Scooby-Doo into something with genuine emotional content is a tough needle to thread, and Levine and the cast do a great job of making something that is both cartoonish and then also very much not.

It’s not a perfect show—there is a lot of speechifying at the end, where the characters tell the audience What it All Means, which I suspect is the hallmark of a relatively new playwright. Also, the parts of the story that don’t involve embracing queer identity are VERY MUCH left hanging. This was annoying, but it was still a great night at the theater, and I was glad so many people got to enjoy it.

The following week, I attended Chaotic Wrestling: Seeing Red at the Sons of Italy in Watertown, MA. Now, before you tell me that this isn’t a theatrical performance, I’d like to refer you to the Wikipedia entry for the Commedia Dell’Arte, the enormously influential popular theatrical movement in Italy in the 16th century.

A commedia, such as The Tooth Puller, is both scripted and improvised. Characters' entrances and exits are scripted. A special characteristic of commedia is the lazzo, a joke or “something foolish or witty”, usually well known to the performers and to some extent a scripted routine.


The characters of the commedia usually represent fixed social types and stock characters, such as foolish old men, devious servants, or military officers full of false bravado. The characters are exaggerated “real characters…”

So, something that’s both scripted and improvised, full of stock characters that are often exaggerated types of real people? Yep, that’s wrestling, all right!

And, like the Commedia of old, wrestling is for the people! We had second-row seats that cost us 20 bucks! For 3 hours of live entertainment! Absolutely unbeatable bargain, and general admission tickets were even cheaper.

The highlight of the night was the tag-team gauntlet, in which a bunch of tag teams competed for the honor of challenging God’s Greatest Creation (featuring Brother Steve and Deacon Chaos) for the championship next month.

There was also a theme of people trying to wrestle much larger people. So Ricky Smokes, who is not a small person, took on Ace Romero, who probably weighs at least 400 pounds. Comedy ensued as Smokes tried to suplex Romero but couldn’t lift him off the ground. This was repeated later when petite Shannon Levangie took on Tyree Taylor, who probably weighs three times as much as she does. It was great fun to see her usual high-flying moves fall flat as she went off the top rope and Taylor simply caught her.

Charismatic and athletic champion Aaron “Evil Gay, The Dime Piece” Rourke defended his heavyweight championship and then, later, lost it in a match that was supposed to be between two other people. (Wrestling, like life, can be complicated.) Worth saying here that Rourke, whose gimmick is that he’s weird as well as SUPER gay, is a crowd favorite. There were a couple of minutes when he was in the face of his opponents, and the crowd would chant, “Kiss! Kiss! Kiss!” And then, at the end of the night, he was climbing up to the top rope to pull JT Dunn down, and Dunn kissed him! And the crowd went crazy.

That’s right, folks, the performers made the homoerotic subtext of wrestling into just text, and the crowd freakin’ loved it. And I should add that due to the affordable prices and the diversity of the performers, this was a really diverse crowd across pretty much every aspect of diversity. Those of you who live in Greater Boston know that this is extraordinarily rare around here, and I commend everybody involved in this promotion for making a place where people get suplexed onto their heads into a safe space for everyone. No one was excluded. Queen heel Paris Van Dale decided to pick on one of the staffers named Spike, and I heard gasps of surprise when the androgynous-presenting Spike ripped their shirt off to reveal a sports bra beneath. (I don’t know how Spike identifies, but it doesn’t matter inside the ring!)

This, of course, is what theater, and for that matter, all art, should be about: breaking down barriers and creating a place where everyone belongs. More popular theater! Please!

#review #theater #wrestling