Colman Domingo’s performance in this coming-of-age tale has a tremendous amount of heart, warmth and energy. In fact, it’s an unavoidably infectious energy that doesn’t falter in the slightest throughout his performance, and along with an uplifting soundtrack made up of the likes of Stevie Wonder, James Brown, Aretha Franklin, Diana Ross and Curtis Mayfield, A Boy and His Soul makes for a sincere and entertaining production.
Set against a backdrop of a tattered basement of the family’s childhood home in West Philadelphia (designed by Richard Kent), cluttered with old disco balls, dust-collecting boxes, disused furniture and crates full of old vinyls, Domingo takes us on a journey through his character, Jay’s, move from childhood to adolescence to adulthood, where we encounter a whole host of eccentric family members along the way. A multi-role-ing Domingo moves with ease between playing his larger-than-life Aunt Nita, to his bossy and gossiping sister, Averie, to his laid back and soul-loving stepfather, Clarence. In fact, Domingo is so skilled, and his performance is so precise and rehearsed, that moments such as when Jay comes out to his family and, in particular, discusses, or rather avoids discussing, his homosexuality with Clarence, are all at once humorous and clearly full of unconditional love. This knack for juxtaposing the comical moments alongside the mundane and typical teenage dramas, with a few serious family problems thrown in for good measure, is what sets Domingo apart as a talented writer and performer. Each and every track has been carefully chosen to infuse this text with upbeat rhythms, which usually feature Domingo dancing along to the music, so that the set list is ingrained in this production, with Diana Ross’ ‘I’m Coming Out’ being played when Jay himself comes out, so that it feels a necessary and irreplaceable element.
The pace never drops throughout A Boy and His Soul; there is the sense that this slick production flows so naturally now (having first been workshopped in 2004, before moving on to open in San Francisco and then to New York) that Domingo can afford to put every last drop of energy into his charismatic performance. It has certainly paid off, and with the aid of Titas Halder’s direction, Domingo shines as a talented solo-performer with an impressive ability to inhabit a host of diverse characters.
A Boy and His Soul is playing at the Tricycle Theatre until 21 September. For more information and tickets, see the Tricycle Theatre website.