By Tulis McCall
Just like you don’t have to be Jewish to like Levy’s Rye, you don’t have to be a gay man to like Drew Droege’s Bright Colors and Bold Patterns. From the sound of the audience at last night’s performance, however, it couldn’t hurt. There were a few one liners that zipped over my head and made a direct hit on the row in back of me. These guys could barely breathe they were laughing so hard.
Gerry (Drew Droege) has shown up for a weekend in Palm Springs to attend the wedding of Brennan Kyle Newkirk and Joshua Christopher Pierson (how white can you get?), and the respective parents have requested that guests “refrain from wearing bright colors or bold patterns.” Khaki would appear to be the color of choice – but sweetheart, khaki is nowhere to be found on the rainbow collection.
When Gerry arrives, his ex-boyfriend Dwayne is on site with his new beau, Mac. Dwayne’s other ex-boyfriend Neil is on the way and makes an appearance late-ish in the game.
AH, sez you, I thought this was a one-person show. And it is. Gerry does all the talking, and for the most part, it works. Droege is careful to steer clear of the pitfall that so many writers swallow whole. He stays away from having Gerry repeat what the other person said. Droege treats his audience like adults. He knows we all eavesdrop – especially here in New York. It is how half of us have collected the majority of our friends and lovers. We eavesdrop and then enter into the conversation without so much as a “By your leave…”
Because of this, we are freed up to see everyone through Gerry’s eyes. This is kitchen table entertainment. This is what our parents or grandparents or adult neighbors did. You remember them. They told you stories that you remember forever. As a for instance, you weren’t around when your parents met – but I bet you know the story by heart.
It is clear that Droege knows from storytelling (as does his director Michael Urie). He is a skillful performer as well as writer and rarely makes a misstep. And while at times your right brain will kick in and say – could one person really talk that long, your left brain will make you remember a time when someone you know did. Of course there were drugs involved, but that doesn’t mean it didn’t happen. One of my memories goes back to a morning back in the 80’s when the local drug supplier showed up at our place in his red Mercedes convertible and stayed for breakfast because he was not certain when he had last eaten. He talked for an hour and made us laugh so hard we cried. I cannot remember what he said, but every time I go back to that morning, I laugh all over again.
Gerry’s story telling swings from the inciting invitation incident, to grammar school, to present day with stops in various decades along the way. He paces himself like a contestant for the Party Olympics. Just the right amount of liquid, smoke and nose candy. And in between the fun, the funny lines, the gut splitting laughs, there are sprinkled some facts that he does not mind spilling along with the beans and the kitchen sink.
This impending wedding is more than just a wedding. It is a detour off the path where being Queer was outside normal just enough to make life fun. Now that everything is legal are we all going to go to khaki land in a basket and not know we have surrendered the weird bits that make us so fabulous? After listening to Gerry for 70 minutes, you want to pat him on the shoulder and say, “Don’t worry, honey bunch. You will n-e-v-e-r be khaki. You will always be Bold Colors. Always.”
Bright Colors and Bold Patterns is still in its growing stages, haven been previously directed by Molly Prather with the Solo Collective at VS Theatre, and there are a few tweaks to make: clarify a few plot points, snip a bit of text, sharpen some blocking, and decide what to do with those friggin’ umbrellas.
And please include me in the next unveiling. Because it will be fabulous and then some. Straight girls like to laugh too, you know. A lot.
BRIGHT COLORS AND BOLD PATTERNS written and performed by Drew Droege, Directed by Michael Urie
Set by Dara Wishingrad, Lights and Sound by Joshua Kohler
Barrow Street Theater, 27 Barrow Street, New York. TICKETS through Sunday September 18th.