Wild With Anticipation

Colman Domingo.  Sometimes a happy accident and sometimes by intent, in the last few weeks, I keep running into Colman Domingo!  On television. In print. On twitter. In person. Figuratively and literally running into Colman Domingo.

Colman Domingo (photo: Paul Gregory)

Colman Domingo
(photo: Paul Gregory)

First, I saw him on Theatre Talk talking about The Vineyard Theatre anniversary; then I read the end paper 20 Questions for Colman Domingo in the current American Theatre Magazine; then I saw all over twitter that he is reprising his role in The Scottsboro Boys in the London production this fall; then I had dinner with him (well, in the same room anyway, and I did  get the pleasure of meeting him at a “Meet the Artists” event TheatreWorks organized); then, I saw him again the next day at the design presentation for Wild With Happy where I got to do one of my very favorite things – hear all the designers present their plans for the set/costumes/lights/sounds and show models and drawings and hear the director talk and meet the actors and see all the theatre artists’ eyes light up with enthusiasm.  Very exciting.

Among the many pleasures of attending a great new play reading are those jolts of pleasurable surprise and recognition when you see the mature play on stage a year or two later, with full production values, even better than you expected.  Patrons of TheatreWorks’ 2011 New Works Festival should come prepared to have that extra-good time when they see Wild With Happy playing June 5 – June 30, 2013 at the Mountain View Center for the Performing Arts.

Wild With Happy is a very funny play about some serious subjects.  Written by Colman Domingo, he also stars as Gil, a struggling actor who returns home to deal with his mother’s passing and ends up on a road trip with her remains in an urn, accompanied (or followed) by her sister — his Aunt Glo, his friend Mo, and Terry, the funeral director.  If all that sounds a bit zany, it’s by design, and sorts itself out well on stage and balances the more reflective themes of life’s disappointments and the challenges of love, faith and family relationships.  This play is a fresh take on some universal questions.  Domingo said, “Cynics welcome!”

After Colman Domingo, his co-star Sharon Washington (who plays the dual roles of Aunt Glo and Gil’s mother, in flashbacks) and the staged reading of Wild With Happy (directed by Robert O’Hara) all became audience favorites at the 2011 Theatreworks’ New Works Festival, the play had its world premiere run at the Public Theatre in New York last year. TheatreWorks’ current production again stars Colman Domingo and Sharon Washington, who will be joined by Duane Boutté and Richard Prioleau in the roles of Mo and Terry, and is directed by Danny Scheie.

This second production of Wild With Happy exemplifies the quality of TheatreWorks’ process and the artists and art it presents.  This is not a case of: this play was in New York and then came to TheatreWorks.  This play was selected by TheatreWorks at the cold script stage to be in its New Works Festival and from there it went to New York and now is back at TheatreWorks.  And the artists! Well, –

Colman Domingo is a star. He was in The Scottsboro Boys on Broadway and starred in Athol Fugard’s Blood Knot Off-Broadway; he has Tony, Drama Desk, and Drama League Award nominations; he wrote and starred in a solo autobiographical show A Boy and His Soul; he was the  first face we saw in the opening shot of Spielberg’s film “Lincoln”.

Sharon Washington photo: Colman Domingo

Sharon Washington
photo: Colman Domingo

Sharon Washington worked with Colman Domingo on The Scottsboro Boys on Broadway and in many other roles in New York (including performances opposite Denzel Washington and Christopher Walken) and regional theatres and film and was nominated for a 2013 Lucille Lortel Award for her performance in Wild With Happy in New York last year.

And director Danny Scheie.  I’ve been trying to restrain myself from saying “the wild and talented Danny Scheie” because although the word “Wild” is in the title of this play I know I can only push it so far before we all groan.  But Danny Scheie (well-known director, former Artistic Director of Shakespeare Santa Cruz and a “comic genius” in his own right as an actor)  really is all that.  (After seeing the design presentation, TheatreWorks Artistic Director Robert Kelley threatened to sell tickets to rehearsals because following Sheie’s semi-impromptu talk about the play everyone was in tears — of laughter!)

There’s no compromise in the supporting cast either. Duane Boutté and Richard Prioleau are both experienced actors with impressive credits. Duane Boutté  is a busy director as well as a working actor in New York and Bay Area audiences may remember Richard Prioleau’s performance in the title role in ACT’s Marcus; or the Secret of Sweet (the final chapter of Tarell Alvin McCraney’s  Brother/Sister Plays.)

Wild With Happy at TheatreWorks will be good theatre.  No qualifiers.  I expect  the production values will be pretty special too.  I haven’t seen the final results but I saw a few models and I saw the infectious excitement in set designer Erik Flatmo’s and costume designer Brandin Barón’s  preliminary presentations and  I can’t wait to see the lights come up on this one.

I hope to see you there!  Wild With Happy runs June 5 (formal opening June 8) through June 30 at the Mountain View Center for Performing Arts.  Get your tickets here:  TheatreWorks.org

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