Wilbury Group's 'Special Happy' at Conley's Wharf

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The new theatre company, The Wilbury Group, is coming on the Rhode Island theatre scene with a bang. We caught their recent production of “Who’s Afraid of Virginia Wolf?” starring Rae Mancini and Jim Sullivan recently at Perishable Theatre.

Their latest venture is a wild and wacky “performance play,” “Special Happy,” written and starring Rebecca Noon, who is a resident artist at Perishable.

Noon describes “Special Happy” as “a celebration for those who have the misfortune of being born on or near Christmas.”

Noon, Jed Hancock-Brainerd and Chris Rosenquest have concocted an hour-long performance piece that defies description. The audience sits in a small theatre space (about 25 seats) on the first floor of the Conley’s Wharf building at 200 Allens Ave. in Providence. The stage is filled with the usual holiday cheer: a Christmas tree, hung stockings, milk and cookies, “A Christmas Carol” book on a stuffed chair, and “The Little Drummer Boy” playing on an old Victrola.

Enter two men who frantically turn the space into a birthday party celebration, with balloons, streamers, gifts, hats for the audience and a birthday cake. Everyone in the audience gets a chance to celebrate “their” birthday, complete with a piece of cake, a wrapped present (I got a Sesame Street placemat), and party favors. But you can’t eat your cake until the pizza man arrives.

Sound a bit wacky and unconventional? It is! This is performance theatre at its most innovative and participatory level.

There are quick scenes featuring a disc jockey, a clown, a lobster (Yes, a lobster), a puppet show, and a clever game of musical chairs. I won’t spoil the other surprises, except to say that you should expect the unexpected in this fast-paced piece that will amaze some and confuse others not used to this type of theatre.

For the low cost of $15 ($10 for students and seniors) you nearly get your money back in food, drink and party gifts.

“Special Happy” is at Conley’s Wharf through Dec. 18. Call 855-2460 for reservations. Wilbury Group’s next offering will be the acclaimed “The Lieutenant of Inishmore” by Martin McDonough, Jan. 6-16. Check them out at www.thewilburygroup.com.

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