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‘World of Wrestling’ Goes for Excess

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Cast Hulk Hogan in a Kabuki version of “Hellzapoppin’ ” and you might come up with something like “World of Wrestling,” at Actors’ Gang in Hollywood.

A decade has passed since the professional wrestling boomlet gave Hogan and his fellow make-believe athletes wide exposure. As tribute to and parody of this questionable sport, this show by writers Steve Moramarco and Jason Reed is grotesque, over-the-top and sometimes even funny.

“World of Wrestling” consists of a series of outrageous matches introduced by a vulgar promoter-cum-announcer, Rocky Vonnagut (Lee Arenberg), and his sidekick Slam McVee (Dean Robinson). One typically raucous contest finds a wrestler named Father Figure (Jon Favreau), a Christian proselyte with a crucifix codpiece, waging a Manichean battle against Dennis Satanis (Kirk Ward), a competitor who seems to have heard too much heavy-metal music played backward.

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The show’s series of matches--culminating in one big donnybrook on center stage--grows tiresome after a while. Reed (who also directed) and Moramarco do better putting a vaudeville spin on offhand, tasteless details along the way, including a trio of scantily clad card girls and a Jewish referee (Michael Rivkin) who sings rap songs and directs a host of insults at audience members. Composer Jef Bek provides appropriate incidental music, though it must be a thankless job.

To make sure no one will confuse “World of Wrestling” with the real thing, the actors wear Kabuki-style whiteface, and the creators have inserted a quote by French critic Roland Barthes in the program.

* “World of Wrestling,” Actors’ Gang, 6201 Santa Monica Blvd., Hollywood. Fridays, 10:30 p.m.; Saturdays, 8 and 10:30 p.m. Ends July 29. $10. (213) 466-1767. Running time: 1 hour, 25 minutes.

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