Bright Colors and Bold Patterns: The Hilarious and Gay Revisit of a Palm Springs Meltdown
There’s always that one loud character that shows up at your party or poolside. We all know the one, a bit obnoxious, throwing barbs at everything and everyone, sometimes very funny, but usually a mess. We love that guy, because we know deep down in his heart of hearts that he has a lot of love to give. That there is a giant emotional hole he is trying to fill, a discomfort he is trying to escape, a sadness he is trying to avoid. We secretly hope that we are not or never will be that guy. For that, we tolerate or sometimes try to avoid that guy, but we can’t ignore him, especially because of his Bright Colors and Bold Patterns. And if you’ve ever been lounging by a pool in the superficial gay world of beautiful men, and their summer beach/country/desert homes, we have met him, whether we wanted to or not.
In this particular case, it’s a lovely Palm Springs poolside backyard, meticulously designed by Dara Wishingrad, who does her best to refigure the design that fit more comfortably into the Barrow Street Theatre than here at the Soho Playhouse. It feels cramped and less airy now, but that’s only for us lucky souls who saw it last year. For everyone else, pool-side feels pretty spot on, and this desert house feels like the perfect location to host this kind of bad behavior on display. This is especially true this weekend when the property is hosting a group of gay men from LA gathered together for a college friend’s gay wedding. Unseen and unheard, but wonderfully implied, are a Speedo-wearing couple, Dwayne and his much younger boyfriend, Mac sunbathing. Both gorgeous, or so we are told by the new arrival, Gerry, the ex lover and former NYC roommate/college buddy of Dwayne. He wheels in with his Rollie bag and heads straight to the bar for a drink. In more ways then one, this is Gerry’s show as much as it is Drew Droege’s, the solo writer and performer of Bright Colors and Bold Patterns. As played by Droege (Celebration Theatre’s Die Mommie Die!), Gerry is a chatterbox who talks and talks and talks, barely letting anyone else get a word in, unless asking someone a direct question. And even then, he doesn’t give up much time nor the reins of where this conversation is going.
The title of this piece refers to a not-so-subtle suggestion on the wedding invitation to avoid wearing Bright Colors and Bold Patterns. Rightly so, Gerry is deeply offended and triggered by this request to tone down the ‘gayness’ of the attendees. It feels like a homophobic slap in the face to all that he holds dear. This insulting idea sets off alarm bells in his brain, and what follows is the result. To make matters worse, arriving just after Gerry is the preverbal last straw, another one of Dwayne’s ex-boyfriends, Neil, sweetly referred to as “fuckface” by Gerry. To him, Neil represents all that is khaki and boring in the colorful gay rainbow. And there is no love lost between the two. Gerry is everything that makes a man like Neil uncomfortable. Loud, sarcastic, and very very gay, and Droege is magnificently on-point throughout. It’s one continuous show-stopping performance from beginning to the end that is just plain fabulous.
It’s also a highly political discussion lead by a drugged out messy gay man, drunk on shame, anger, and tequila. And he has a lot to say from topics ranging from Queen Latifah, Steel Magnolias, Candace Bergin, (“He was practically raised by Candice Bergin. No, Dwayne, that wouldn’t be amaaazing – that woman was raised next to a wooden doll, so no wonder she’s creepy”), all the way to sex, drugs, and pop. The references come fast and furious, and partly because of the skillful direction of Michael Urie (Torch Song, The Government Inspector), he nails it time and time again. It’s bitchy and uncomfortable at moments, cruel and mean-spirited at times, but underneath all that lies a whole lot of truth. Now that gay men can marry, he asks (and I’m not quoting here), what’s next? Was that the final destination? After years of trying to become comfortable and proud of our differentness, are we to embrace the hetero norms of today’s world? Get married, have kids, live in a cul-de-sac? It’s a compelling argument, especially for us older gay man who did spend a great deal of energy trying to work out how we can be proud of our uniqueness and our sexuality while being forced to live outside of main stream culture. I applaud him for his bravery and his realness, especially as the end of the evening draws near, and the drugs begin to wear off. It’s time to get real. Bare our souls to the world, and become ok with it all. He might not be the first person I’d invite to my poolside gathering, but he certainly would keep things lively and real, and very very funny.