Wild with Happy

Colman Domingo’s charmingly sentimental new play utilizes a heightened performance style to good effect.

Colman Domingo and Sharon Washington in <i>Wild With Happy</i>
Colman Domingo and Sharon Washington in Wild With Happy
(© Joan Marcus)

Colman Domingo has a high-energy, in-your-face performance style that invigorates his charmingly sentimental new play Wild with Happy, at the The Public Theater, which has been directed by Robert O’Hara to highlight the farcical elements of the work.

The writer/performer plays Gil, a gay African-American man who has recently lost his mother Adelaide (played in flashback by Sharon Washington). Whether delivering a diatribe about why he no longer goes to church, interacting with flirtatious funeral director Terry (Korey Jackson), or admonishing best friend Mo (Maurice McRae) who takes him on an unexpected road trip, Domingo commands the stage. It’s amazing how a simple movement of his lips or a widening of his eyes can convey so much emotion and attitude.

Washington comes very close to matching Domingo’s animated presence in her second role as Aunt Glo. A scene where the character barges into Adelaide’s former home and puts on layer after layer of her deceased sister’s clothing is mindboggingly hilarious.

McRae also seems to have a handle on the outsized theatrics of the fast-paced production; however, Jackson doesn’t really immerse himself into the production’s heightened performance style making him seem oddly out of place.

The differing ideas that Gil and Aunt Glo have for how to memorialize Adelaide forms the crux of the play’s conflict. Gil just wants to get it over with and go back to his life in New York, while Aunt Glo wants a proper viewing, church service and other traditional mourning activities. And despite the outrageous humor found throughout the intermissionless show, the subject of properly honoring Adelaide’s memory is treated with seriousness and respect.

Clint Ramos deserves kudos for his inventive set, which utilizes an assortment of caskets in innovative ways and then transforms into a stunning Disney-inspired design for the play’s touching, ridiculous, and strangely satisfying final scene.

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Wild with Happy

Closed: November 18, 2012