by Ryan Leeds
For years, entertainment has often portrayed homosexuals as effeminate, self-loathing individuals who are well versed in pop culture, quick-witted, and way over the top. Some might argue that this same stereotype is being perpetuated in the solo play Bright Colors and Bold Patterns. On the surface, they may be right. But stick with this 80-minute monologue and by the end, you may discover some surprising truths about yourself and your world views, thanks to Drew Droege’s beautifully crafted script and Michael Urie’s wise direction.
Droege, who also stars in the comedy, is best known for his hugely popular impersonations of actor Chloe Sevigny. After watching an interview in which Sevigny nonchalantly name checked and spouted obscure references, Droege’s fascination led to a series of online videos.
His riff on Sevigny might well have been a precursor to the character he plays here. Gerry (Droege), a thirty-something brash and boozy pop-culture authority has just arrived to a decked out Palm Springs home (tastefully designed by Dara Wishingrad) from Los Angeles. He’s there for the wedding of his close friend Josh and Josh’s fiancé, Brennan, who Gerry dismisses as a dull figure and refers to as “mayonnaise on a captain’s wafer.”
Gerry is one of the first guests to arrive at the posh palace and is met by his ex-boyfriend Dwayne, and Dwayne’s significantly younger boyfriend, Mac. Neither is seen, but Droege’s masterful conversations with them bring the pair vividly to life. It’s not long before Gerry pours himself a frozen margarita and starts to dish on nearly everything and everyone that pops into his head.
Gerry has absolutely no filter and speaks at lightning speed mostly due to his abundant consumption of alcohol and cocaine. He’s particularly irritated by his friends’ wedding invitation discouraging guests from wearing “bright colors and bold patterns,” which he perceives as an affront to gayness. Gerry’s life mantra seems to be “go big or go home” and he has little patience for anyone who doesn’t interact in the world and live loud.
He continues to ramble on, citing references from Steel Magnolias, Designing Women, obscure Lifetime television movies, and fashion designers. At times he meanders off topic but that is when the show is at his funniest. Gerry’s quips are razor sharp and Droege’s mannerisms and expressions are single-handedly worth the price of a ticket.
I’ve always believed that the term “tour de force” to describe a performance is pretentious and perhaps, it is. Yet there seems to be no better phrase to define Droege’s capacity to captivate and keep his audience fully engaged from beginning to end.
Gay marriage is the essence and thread of Gerry’s diatribe and he wonders whether the newly acquired right will force the gay community into a state of normalcy. It’s been hard for him to sustain a long-term relationship in spite of the proclamation to his fellow guests that he and his boyfriend, Greg, have been fighting. The problem is that Greg isn’t really his boyfriend; he’s a restaurant employee at the Veggie Grille in Los Angeles and Gerry is pining for his affection
It would be easy to dismiss Gerry as a caustic, bitter queen with a substance abuse issue and deep disdain for humanity. At times, I did feel uneasy about his blatant cocaine use and initially found him grating. Yet Droege is careful not to make his character a one-dimensional, shallow soul. In the show’s quieter moments, he’s able to poke a hole through Gerry’s false confidence, revealing a vulnerable, thoughtful guy who is trying to make sense of it all while he lives his life with wild abandon. Droege’s message: We’re not always fabulous, nor are we permanently flawed. We’re an alchemy of it all because we’re wonderfully human.
Here’s what other critics had to say:
“Plays do not get much gayer than ‘Bright Colors,’ a spiffy production directed by Michael Urie.” — Charles Isherwood, The New York Times
“At an easy, breezy 70 minutes, Bright Colors and Bold Patterns doesn’t ask too much of our time while offering a surefire laugh.” — Zachary Stewart, Theatermania
“Gerry guards old wounds of exclusion and heartbreak, dating back decades, that have made him the spiny puffer he is today, inflated with prickly defenses. That’s what gives Droege’s show a poignancy beyond its hilarity. Gerry’s hard-won pride now rains on his parade.” — Adam Feldman, Time Out NY
Bright Colors and Bold Patterns
Barrow Street Theatre
27 Barrow Street, NYC
Through December 30
Ryan Leeds is a freelance theater journalist who lives in Manhattan. He is the Chief Theater Critic for Manhattan Digest and a frequent contributor to Dramatics Magazine. Follow him on Twitter @Ry_Runner or on Facebook.