In wrestling and the theater, it’s ‘all about showmanship’

Things get a little tense in "American Sligo." Credit: Russ Widdall
Things get a little tense in “American Sligo.”
Credit: Russ Widdall

With a background in commedia dell’arte, masks and puppetry, Aaron Cromie recognizes a certain kinship with professional wrestlers. “Being a theater person, it’s hilarious to watch these wrestlers threaten each other and posture and make their big speeches,” Cromie says. “If it was more real it would probably make you way more uncomfortable to watch, but there’s something about their joyous commitment that makes it fun.”

Cromie, who grew up watching the WWF in the era of Hulk Hogan, the Iron Sheik and Jimmy “Superfly” Snuka, is calling upon some of those memories as he directs the regional premiere of Adam Rapp’s “American Sligo.” The play, which opens May 30 to wrap up New City Stage Company’s seventh season, concerns the dysfunctional family of a professional wrestler on the day of his final match. A fan has won a contest to eat dinner with Art “Crazy Train” Sligo and his family, gaining insight into the real life behind the body slams and steel chairs.

“Whereas in boxing or MMA you’re actually hitting the other person,” Cromie says, “in professional wrestling it’s all about the showmanship and the appearance of things rather than what actually is. I think that filters into the family dynamic of the play. This young boy’s view of things gets destroyed, or at least compromised, by the reality as compared to what goes on inside the ring.”

The show is a departure for Cromie, who usually works with more fantastical elements and stagecraft like puppetry rather than the starker drama of Rapp’s piece. “When you’re not teaching a codified style like using puppets or masks, the conversation opens up a lot more to the personal experience and ideas and intentions of the people playing the parts,” he says. “I normally work on shows that use magical realism, so I wanted to try something new, a more contemporary, kitchen-sink kind of play.”

If you go

“American Sligo”
May 30-June 23
Adrienne Theatre Skybox
2030 Sansom St.
$10-$35
215-563-7500
www.newcitystage.org


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