Among those attending the premiere of Colman Domingo's "Dot" at the Humana Festival of New Plays in Louisville, Ky., in 2015 was Everyman Theatre artistic director Vincent Lancisi.
"I think this play is going to be a classic," Lancisi says. "It's a universal story — a family coming home for the holidays, and grown kids dealing with their mom's aging. It's very funny and very poignant. You laugh so hard and then, all of a sudden, you get punched in the gut. I love that."
Lancisi and an Everyman colleague quickly sought out the playwright.
"They came up to me and said, 'We have to be the first to produce this after New York.' They were like a dog after a bone," says Domingo, who when not writing plays is a busy actor — currently featured in the TV series "Fear the Walking Dead."
As it turned out, "Dot," which enjoyed a well-received run off-Broadway early this year, is getting a double regional premiere. One at the Detroit Public Theatre closes this weekend; the Everyman production, directed by Lancisi, opens Friday.
Set in Philadelphia, "Dot" centers around Dotty, matriarch of an African-American family. When her adult children come together for Christmas bearing their own frustrations and setbacks, they have to confront their mother's declining condition due to Alzheimer's.
"I like to have comedy and tragedy banging up against people's heads," Domingo says. "My goal is to leave you joyfully decimated. Whether I deal with death or aging, the only way to tackle it is with honesty."
And plenty of humor.
"For many people, the moment they hear 'Alzheimer's' they don't want to touch it," Domingo says. "I want people to touch it, to embrace it. And I wanted the first mention of Alzheimer's in the play to be a laugh line. People who battle the disease, or are caring for someone with it, have so much humor. It is the only way to live with it."
Humor likewise served Domingo well in his fanciful 2012 play "Wild with Happy," about a gay man's decisions and journeys after his mother's death. (That work received an affecting production at Center Stage in 2014).
The mother in "Dot" also has a gay son — he and his husband are "dealing with marital issues that any couple can relate to," Domingo says. "That it's a gay couple is so secondary. I'm very conscious about this. In my plays, things like race, gender and [sexual orientation] are not issues; they just are."
Domingo's latest projects include a play based on a Lysley Tenorio short-story about the death of a transgendered Filipino-American. The playwright will also soon try his hand at writing musicals.
"My hobby is my career," says the 47-year-old. "I don't have a lot of hanging-out time. I'm always working on no less than three things at once."
Those things include a lot of acting. He has appeared in such movies as "Lincoln," "Selma" and "The Butler."
He also has a substantial role in "The Birth of a Nation," the Nate Parker film about the Nat Turner slave rebellion. Its recent release was eclipsed by media attention to a 1999 rape case involving Parker (he was acquitted of the charges).
That controversy "dampened all the hearts and souls that went into 'Birth of a Nation' and overshadowed what the Nat Turner story is about," Domingo says. "I wish the film was able to be seen on its own merits. I wish there was a separation between the artist and the art — there is a difference."
Domingo also plays Victor Strand in the AMC spinoff series "Fear the Walking Dead," which starts filming another season in January.
"Things like that raise your profile, of course, and help support my theater work as well," Domingo says. "I'm always writing during breaks on TV and film sets. I am never leaving the theater, no matter how much television and film work I do."
If you go
"Dot" opens at 8 p.m. Friday and runs through Jan. 8 at Everyman Theatre, 315 W. Fayette St. Tickets are $10 to $64. Call 410-752-2208, or go to everymantheatre.org.