Colman Domingo has been a galvanic force of many natures ever since his deeply strange and daring virtuosity in "Passing Strange," followed by his commanding presence in "Scottsboro Boys" and his slyly touching autobiographical solo, "A Boy and His Soul." So it's painful to have to say that "Wild With Happy," the multicharacter piece in which he also stars, is a cliche-driven story of a man and his mother's ashes, with strained humor, self-consciously florid writing and, despite the absurdist style, an overload of conventional sentimentality.
Director Robert O'Hara, known as a playwright of subversive power, modulates his cast in the narrow range between bellowing and barking. Domingo seems straitjacketed as the sensible one, the Yale-educated gay son confronting cultural expectations about the funeral of his mother. Sharon Washington toggles boisterously between two roles, the mother and her sister. Maurice McRae finds a few new layers in the prototype of a flamboyantly femme friend. But the most original moments come from Clint Ramos' scenery, which appears to create life from caskets.
WHAT "Wild With Happy"
WHERE Public Theater, 425 Lafayette St.
INFO $75-$85; 212-967-7555; publictheater.org
BOTTOM LINE Not so wild, not so happy