Wild With Happy
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Don’t tell God, but for some people pop culture not even a century old can provide the same kind of spiritual inspiration and comfort as the ancient texts and traditions of organized religion. Just ask Adelaide, the central character of Colman Domingo’s wonderfully joyous, sweet and funny adventure, Wild With Happy. No, wait, you can’t. Because she’s dead when the play starts.
Adelaide was the mother of Gil, played by Domingo himself, a smartly sardonic New York Yalie who hasn’t set foot in church since he was ten years old and Adelaide, after finding her boyfriend cheating on her the night before, woke her sleepy boy one Sunday morning determined that they had to “get up and get us some Jesus!”
But this isn’t a play about grieving. It’s a bit more about how examining the life of someone who’s gone can affect you own life for the better. But that message only creeps in toward the end of director Robert O’Hara’s clever and imaginative production, when the series of sometimes farcical/sometimes sitcomy scenes start blending into something of heartwarming sentimentality.
Frustrated by the responsibility of having to make funeral arrangements – not to mention the flirtations and sales pitches of the attractive funeral director, Terry (Korey Jackson) – Gil considers cremation, to the horror of his sassy-tongued, traditional Aunt Glo. (“Black people don't do that! You don't do that unless a person was burned or mutilated or too fat to fit in a coffin!”) Sharon Washington doubles up on the female roles, projecting radiance as Adelaide in flashback moments and acting hilariously over-the-top as her domineering sister.
When Gil’s diva-ish friend Mo (Maurice McRae) learns of Adelaide’s past fascination with the Walt Disney version of Cinderella, he kidnaps his pal on an impromptu road trip to Orlando (with Terry and Aunt Glo hot in pursuit), finally settling into the room that Gil’s mother always dreamed of, Disney World’s Cinderella Suite.
Set and costume designer Clint Ramos, who spends much of the play dreaming up fun and unexpected ways to turn coffins into set pieces, presents a perfect interpretation of the Cinderella Suite as a cathedral of wonder, bringing out Domingo’s themes of faith and fantasy, spirituality and the magic of human imagination.
Wild With Happy is a delicious charmer about finding the heaven that’s right for you and forever keeping it in your heart.
Photos by Joan Marcus: Top: Colman Domingo; Bottom: Colman Domingo and Sharon Washington.
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Posted on October 26, 2012 - by
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About the Author:After 20-odd years singing, dancing and acting in dinner theatres, summer stocks and the ever-popular audience participation murder mysteries (try improvising with audiences after they?ve had two hours of open bar), Michael Dale segued his theatrical ambitions into playwriting. The buildings which once housed the 5 Off-Off Broadway plays he penned have all been destroyed or turned into a Starbucks, but his name remains the answer to the trivia question, "Who wrote the official play of Babe Ruth's 100th Birthday?" He served as Artistic Director for The Play's The Thing Theatre Company, helping to bring free live theatre to underserved communities, and dabbled a bit in stage managing and in directing cabaret shows before answering the call (it was an email, actually) to become BroadwayWorld.com's first Chief Theatre Critic. While not attending shows Michael can be seen at Citi Field pleading for the Mets to stop imploding. Likes: Strong book musicals and ambitious new works. Dislikes: Unprepared celebrities making their stage acting debuts by starring on Broadway and weak bullpens.