Review: 'Wild With Happy' is a zany comedy
This theater image released by The Public Theater shows Sharon Washington, left, and Colman Domingo in a scene from Domingo’s new play "Wild With Happy," performing off-Broadway at The Public Theater in New York. (AP Photo/Public Theater, Joan Marcus)
NEW YORK (AP) — Strap on your bibbidi-bobbidi-boo and fire up the fairy dust. The Cinderella brought to life in the 1950 Disney animation about a glass-slipper-shod housemaid who bewitched Prince Charming had a graceful, innocent air, and introduced the everlastingly romantic song lyric, "a dream is a wish your heart makes."
But Colman Domingo, the Tony Award-nominated star of "Passing Strange" and "The Scottsboro Boys," has reimagined the never-aging princess in a whole different way, in his zany new play "Wild With Happy," which he wrote and stars in.
An irreverent, fast-moving comedy that satirizes organized religion, Disneyworld, the American funeral industry and 21st-century burial rituals, it opened Tuesday night at the newly refurbished Public Theater. Under Robert O'Hara's inventive direction, the laugh-filled, 110-minute production flies by.
Domingo brings a hip, stylish energy to his role as a gay, 40-year-old, would-be actor named Gil, who's been depressed since getting dumped a year earlier. Gil's supportive mother dies suddenly, leaving him guilt-racked, sunk in a spiritual vacuum and wondering what to do with her remains.
Sharon Washington is exceptionally versatile here, portraying both Gil's sweetly optimistic mother, Adelaide, and, quite hilariously, his bossy, tart-tongued, very opiniated Aunt Glo. Providing a whole new take on social media during one of her many rants, Glo claims "The 'internets' are keeping families apart," and scathingly refers to "Spacebook" and all the "textin' and twitchin' goin' on."
Maurice McRae is wildly campy as Gil's flamboyant friend, Mo, who maintains his diva personality even while helping with scenery changes. Korey Jackson provides a calming presence as Terry, a down-to-earth, fourth-generation funeral home director who's studying "energy work" in order to get out of the family business.
Eventually the characters embark on a wacky car-chase of a road trip, assisted by Aaron Rhyne's vivid projections. Clint Ramos designed the colorful costumes and sets, notably the crazily clever, multi-functional coffins
The play has a personal aspect for Domingo, who lost his mother and step-father within six months of one another in 2006. Underlying all the one-liners are some serious themes about community, the value of rituals and the unexpected effects of grief. Although the ending is corny, it's warm-hearted and nicely informed by Domingo's irrepressible irony.