Reviewed by Judy Richter
In Colman Domingo's "Wild With Happy," Gil is a black, gay, 40-ish actor in New York who returns to his hometown of Philadelphia after his mother's death. Short of money and somewhat paralyzed by grief, he opts for cremation rather than a traditional funeral -- much to his aunt's distress. What happens eventually is a road trip to Disney World.
What happens in the meantime is laugh after laugh as Gil, played by the playwright, deals with his maternal Aunt Glo (Sharon Washington). He also has memories of phone calls from his mother, Adelaide (also played by Washington). He's attracted to Terry (Richard Prioleau), the funeral director, and gets moral support of sorts from his flamboyant young friend Mo (Duane Boutté) in this West Coast premiere by TheatreWorks.
As Mo and Gil head for Disney World with Adelaide's ashes, Terry and Glo follow them. Disney World is where Adelaide was happiest during a visit with Gil. In the end, it's where Gil and the others find some resolution.
Washington's performance as Adelaide and Aunt Glo goes a long way in making the play so hilarious. Some of Terry's and Mo's actions can seem a bit outrageous, too. Often Gil reacts with incredulity, as if he can't believe or doesn't want to accept what he's seeing or hearing, thereby ignoring the feelings of others, especially his mother and aunt.
Director Danny Scheie stresses the play's comedic and campy aspects, sometimes at the cost of its more serious aspects. Hence, the play and Domingo's reactions as Gil might come across as superficial in spots.
There's no denying how funny it is, though, especially in the motor-mouth speeches by Adelaide and Aunt Glo. Adelaide seems adept at laying guilt trips, some well deserved, on Gil, while Aunt Glo spouts some choice malapropisms and mixed metaphors. Despite the similarities between the sisters, Washington clearly delineates between them. However, Aunt Glo frequently takes what appear to be prescription pills, which aren't explained except once when she mentions high blood pressure. Otherwise, she seems to pop pills like candy.
Erik Flatmo designed a set with a proscenium, red velvet curtains and footlights. Some scenes take place in front of the curtains, allowing for seamless set changes in this 95-minute, intermissionless work. The lighting and media are designed by David Lee Cuthbert with costumes by Brandin Barón and sound by Brendan Aanes.
"Wild With Happy" audiences are in for a wild ride on the way to a touching conclusion.
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