Deeply personal, hysterically funny, also sad, full of wit and humor, the play “Wild With Happy”, by nationally acclaimed, OBIE award-winning and Tony award-nominated, actor and playwright, Colman Domingo, opened at TheatreWorks, at the Mountain View Center for Performing Arts. Domingo is a gifted actor and has previously played in various well known productions, including “The Scottsboro Boys” – http://bit.ly/KIBadN . In “Wild With Happy”, he plays alongside Sharon Washington, who is superb in her duel role, and was nominated for an Outstanding Lead Actress, Lucille Lortel Award, for her performance as “Adelaide/ Aunt Glo.
Gil (Domingo) in his early forties, has returned from NYC, to his home in Philly, to make arrangements for the funeral of his mother, whom he calls “Adelaide”, to the disapproval of his “Aunt Glo” (both roles played by Washington). He continues to have conversations with his mother, now dead, as he also remembers the earlier times he spent with her, like the time when she decided to join a church and told him, it was to “get us some Jesus”. His mother says, “you are just like me, probably more me than me”. (Isn’t that how it always turns out?) She wants to call Oprah on his behalf, has dreams for him, and believes in magic and fairy tales. She advises, he let go of the past and be open to love, even as he insists, he is a middle aged grown man with $80K in student loans that has yet to be paid back, and magic does not happen in real life.
Aunt Glo, mother’s twin, is a feisty, energetic, zany woman, who gulps down pills to manage her blood pressure, and insists that they have a funeral befitting the tradition, even as she is cleaning out her sister’s closet, for her shoes, dresses, scarves and jackets. Gil prefers a quiet end to mark his mother’s passing away, and questions the need for ceremony. Aunt Glo insists that “tradition has to be maintained”, “because that is what our people do”, “because we are common people”, and that after the limo, hearse, and procession, there should be a reception, so as to not “get talked about afterwards”. She stands her ground, insisting that while her sister was nearing the end of her life, she was the one taking care of her “onliest sister”, as Gil who was pursuing his career in theater, was “missing in acting”.
Gil, meanwhile, discusses the funeral arrangements with the funeral director, Terry (superbly played by Richards Prioleau), who tries to sell the best package, while Gil insists that he is looking for “best on a budget”. To great consternation of his Aunt Glo, Gil settles on cremation, and drives with the urn, with his friend Mo (Duane Boutte), followed in hot pursuit by his Aunt and Terry. Gil and Mo have some conflict along the way, but finally they all end up in Florida, in Disney’s MagicKingdom, in the Cinderella Suite. And magic happens as they make peace. Even as Gil realizes he cannot escape from grief, that “grief becomes part of you that never goes away”, he also understands, “love is a story that never ends”, and he must “shake some fairy dust and keep on believing”. And acknowledging that love is a journey, Aunt Glo also concedes that “love is not a box of cherries, nor a bowl of chocolates,” but is a “trip down the winding lane”. Finally, Gil is not running away from, or running towards, not escaping neither chasing, anything. “I want to just sit”, he says.
Director, Danny Scheie has done a fantastic job. Great kudos to Scenic Designer, Erik Flatmo, Stage Manger, Karen Szpaller, and Assistant Stage Manager, Emily Anderson Wolf. Absolutely loved the beautiful set of Cinderella suite that briefly seems to transport the audience to the magicality symbolized by Disney. Great kudos to Casting Director Leslie Martinson, for excellent casting. And Costume Designer, Brandin Baron did a splendid job in bringing out the personalities of Adelaide and Aunt Glo, as well as other characters.
The dialogues are funny, they make you laugh; they also made me cry. I absolutely loved Sharon Washington who plays both distinct roles and a brief Cinderella role, with aplomb. I highly recommend this brilliant performance and pick it as not-to-miss play of this season, in South Bay Area, CA. For tickets, go to www.theatreworks.org .