Wild with Happy

1/5
Photograph: Joan Marcus
Public Theater. By Colman Domingo. Dir. Robert O’Hara. With ensemble cast. 1hr 45mins. No intermission.
2/5
Photograph: Joan Marcus
Public Theater. By Colman Domingo. Dir. Robert O’Hara. With ensemble cast. 1hr 45mins. No intermission.
3/5
Photograph: Joan Marcus
Public Theater. By Colman Domingo. Dir. Robert O’Hara. With ensemble cast. 1hr 45mins. No intermission.
4/5
Photograph: Joan Marcus
Public Theater. By Colman Domingo. Dir. Robert O’Hara. With ensemble cast. 1hr 45mins. No intermission.
5/5
Photograph: Joan Marcus
Public Theater. By Colman Domingo. Dir. Robert O’Hara. With ensemble cast. 1hr 45mins. No intermission.
Public Theater, Downtown Wednesday October 24 2012 20:00

The season is young, but I predict the award for Scene Stealer of the Year will go to Sharon Washington as Aunt Glo, a braying, ghetto-fabulous busybody in a leopard-print tracksuit. Aunt Glo makes her first appearance in Colman Domingo’s Wild with Happy mid-rant over her nephew’s decision to cremate his recently deceased mother, her sister (“Our people just don’t do that,” she protests). Popping suspicious pills and firing rubber bullets of folk wisdom, Glo barrels into her late sibling’s bedroom, berating a grief-numbed Gil (Domingo) while shamelessly ransacking the dead woman’s armoire, shoes and all. Glo is the flashiest zany in Domingo’s sweet but shaggy defense of fantasy as a balm against reality.

Gil—a struggling, fortyish actor who has distanced himself from his Philadelphia roots—is taking hard knocks in the real world, but resists the allure of magical thinking. This includes yogic stress relief offered by a closeted funeral director (Korey Jackson) as well as the neighborhood Baptist church, where Gil refuses to hold a memorial. Our secular hero rejects all places of worship; that is, he does until he finds himself and his mother’s ashes hijacked and heading to Disney World thanks to his sassy friend Mo (Maurice McRae). After a bit of road-trip bonding, our characters converge in the “Cinderella Suite” (a real place), where Gil reconciles his skepticism with respect for the ecstatic joy his mother found in Walt Disney’s kitsch.

Domingo’s script is overspiced with quirk and campy cheap shots, and gets downright maudlin and preachy in its final scene. But director Robert O’Hara—abetted by Clint Ramos’s playful costumes and set design and Aaron Rhyne’s sensational video projections—gives the production real bounce and farcical euphoria. Despite the delectable Washington and other strong performers, the play won’t really drive you wild; but it may leave some mildly happy.—David Cote

Follow David Cote on Twitter: @davidcote

Venue name: Public Theater
Contact:
Address: 425 Lafayette St
New York
10003
Cross street: between Astor Pl and E 4th St
Transport: Subway: N, R to 8th St–NYU; 6 to Astor Pl
Price: $25