It is has been quite some time since I was so greatly moved and entertained by a play, but as I sat in The Public Theatre on Saturday afternoon, I found myself taken aback by a touching script, incredible acting and delightfully versatile sets. The play I was seeing was “Wild With Happy.” Now, upon hearing the name, you might think it doesn’t make sense, but as you watch, you come to see that everything does.
“Wild With Happy” is a story written by and starring Colman Domingo. He plays Gil, a gay actor with a fledgling career and an unusual relationship with his mother, whom he addresses as Adelaide. He has seen her throw wild parties for the rent, get drunk and curse people out, but the experience that frightened him most was seeing her get the spirit in church, a place he stays away from.
When the play opens, Gil is at the funeral parlor deciding on what he will do with his mother’s body. The audience gets to see the deep and touching relationship that Gil had with his mother through flashbacks. His mother believed in being a dreamer and raised him to be one too. She stuck by him his whole life, supporting his gay lifestyle. She loved him deeply and he loved her, but he was also very negative at times. His mother became ill and would speak to him about it, but it made him uncomfortable. When his mother dies, he has to decide what will happen now. You might think that that question is pretty simple, but for Gil it is definitely not.
It is a pleasure meeting his Aunt Glo, who talks a mile a minute when she is not shouting to the Lord or trying on and packing up her dead sister’s clothes. His Aunt Glo is like the typical relative when one’s loved one dies. You’ll have to see the show to know what I’m talking about.
I will tell you that this play touched me because there’s a connection between Gil’s mother and Disney World and the idea of the total happiness that one experiences when they are at this magical place. During the play I couldn’t help but cry, especially having lost my mother in June and vividly recalling how much she and I enjoyed a trip to Disney World. I don’t know what inspired Domingo to create this production, but it was something special, as this production touched a special place in my heart and it is something that I will long remember. Dealing with death is never easy, but this play brings out the hardships of the situation, as well as the humor that can be found among the sadness and sorrow. Everyone grieves in their own way; you can’t say that what feels right to you is right for someone else, but it is so important to remember and hold onto the good times, the fond and happy moments that you and your loved one had the chance to share.
This play has adult subject matter, but it also has some of the most versatile sets I’ve seen, as caskets become anything but. The entire cast does a remarkable job. Domingo is brilliant as Gil, Sharon Washington shows her talent and depth as both Adelaide and Glo, Maurice McRae is funny and endearing as Gil’s friend Mo, and Korey Jackson shows compassion and spirit as Terry, the director of the funeral parlor. This production has superb direction by Robert O’Hara. It is sharp, smart and witty. Clint Ramos is responsible for both the unbelievably adaptable sets and the costumes for this play.
The play is running through Nov. 11. See it and be moved.