By Donna Herman
What’s tackier, using the phrase “Please refrain from wearing bright colors or bold patterns” on your same-sex wedding invitation, or ignoring the instructions as a guest? You won’t be able to leave the theater after seeing Drew Droege’s one man show Bright Colors and Bold Patterns at the Barrow Street Theater, without having answered the question for yourself.
It’s a remarkable piece of theater, brilliantly written and performed by Drew Droege, and crisply directed by Michael Urie, no stranger to the stage himself. One person shows are hard to pull off, but a piece where that one person talks to several different unseen characters on stage successfully, well, I’ve never seen it before. But Drew Droege pulls it off with ease and specificity in Bright Colors and Bold Patterns
The play is set on a patio beautifully decorated in (dare I say it?) bold turquoise and orange colors and patterns. Loud Diana Ross music is blaring as Gerry, Droege’s character, arrives in shorts, a t-shirt, sunglasses, a tote bag and swigging a beer. He’s just driven down to Palm Springs from LA for the wedding of his old friends Josh and Brennan, and found another old friend Dwayne, and Dwayne’s new boyfriend Mack already on the patio.
At first meeting, you pretty much know who Gerry is. He’s that incredibly funny, acerbic, can’t shut up, gayer than gay, guy in the crowd. The one who knows every pop culture icon and reference from 1970 to 5 minutes ago. And the one who can’t wait to tell you who’s who and what’s what. When Mack leaves the room to make them drinks and he learns from Dwayne that Mack is only 23 years old he remarks “I’m just saying we’re an entire Abigail Breslin older than him.”
It becomes clear right away that there’s a lot of history among the wedding participants and guests, and that Gerry is probably not going to be handling it as well as others. He’s clearly tightly wound and can’t keep from saying what he thinks. It doesn’t help that after finishing the beer he walked in with, he starts gulping down Mack’s margaritas like water. By the way, it didn’t actually take Gerry four hours to get from LA to Palm Springs, it took him 53 minutes, because he did all the cocaine he was bringing to the wedding before he got in the car.
Loose lips sink ships, and we soon find out that not only is Nick, who is an ex-lover of Dwayne’s, arriving with his new boyfriend, but Gerry’s boyfriend isn’t coming because of a fight. Oh and oops, did he mention that he and Dwayne were briefly more than roommates? “I’m so sorry you didn’t know, Mack – We were really young and stupid and you know, everybody fucks their roommates in New York – it just makes the most financial sense.”
All the while, Gerry is ranting about how tacky the wedding invitation is and how Brennan and his mother want to try to hide the fact that they’re gay:
“Happy gay wedding! Did they want us to just show up nude?…Seriously, that really fucking offends me…that invitation. It’s telling us to be quiet…this is Brennan…. Ugh, have you met Brennan? “Hi, I’m Brennan. I’m just… here.” He’s like an ottoman. And what is he afraid of? He is a gay man getting married in Palm Springs. He thinks a couple of bright colors and bold patterns are gonna sell him out? I mean, have you seen this house where we’re staying? That den looks like Trina Turk and Betsey Johnson threw up Bacardi Razz and then sold it to Target. No, I LOVE IT – this house is great – I love Trina Turk. That’s my point, honey – more of that, please!…Honey, we celebrate things and make fun of them at the same time. That’s called gay. My point is this frankenberry meth orgy is okay for the living room, but I have to fit in? With Brennan and his beige family? I have nothing in my closet for them!… someone please tell me where I can find khaki on the rainbow.”
And this is all before Nick arrives with more cocaine and the serious drinking begins! But lest you think this is simply a bitch-fest, let me tell you there’s some (ahem) meat on the bone here too. Droege the writer, wants to explore another side of marriage equality, and he does so quite successfully. It’s especially meaningful for those same-sex partners who have spent many years being defined as “different” and embracing that label.
Bright Colors and Bold Patterns is funny, fast, acerbic, but also thoughtful, and not for the intolerant. If you’re interested in seeing the best of what independent theater can offer, don’t hesitate, go see it.
Bright Colors and Bold Patterns Written by Drew Droege, Directed by Michael Urie.
WITH: Drew Droege (Gerry)
Set design by Dara Wishingrad; stage manager, Michael Medina; associate producer, Tom DeTrinis. Presented by Form Theatricals, Zachary Laks and Anthony Francavilla; co-presented by SCRUFF. The Barrow Street Theater, 27 Barrow Street, through December 30th, tickets: https://web.ovationtix.com/trs/pr/965681