Nobody would ever confuse ‘Bright Colors and Bold Patterns,” a gay comedy written and performed solo by Drew Droege, for “Long Day’s Journey Into Night.” Yet oddly, there were moments in this funny show that brought O’Neill’s tragedy to mind.
A loud gay man named Gerry arrives in Palm Springs, California for the wedding of two friends he doesn’t seem to like very much anymore. He’s especially resentful of the wedding invitation, which asked the wedding guests to “please refrain from wearing bright colors and bold patterns.”
His hosts (perhaps luckily for all involved) are not present at the patio where the play takes place, decked out with a bright blue umbrella and bold patterned pillows. There are just two fellow (unseen) wedding guests, Dwayne, an old friend of Gerry’s, and Dwayne’s new boyfriend, Mack, who is 23 years old, which is some two decades younger than the two other men — or as Gerry puts it when Mack is out of earshot: “We’re an entire Abigail Breslin older than him.”
Gerry drinks too much and talks too much; makes too many (witty) insults, and too many obscure pop culture references (at least I hope they’re supposed to be obscure) that Mack doesn’t get. “Mack, stick with me,” Gerry says at one point, “you’ll have a PhD in Gay by Sunday afternoon.” It’s a reliable source of humor that even Gerry’s most bizarre references are for real. There really was a weird Lifetime movie called “Invisible Child” in which Rita Wilson plays a mother who “has two children but thinks she has three. Yeah, she talks to this kid, hugs it, feeds it lunches.” (The program should include a glossary of his references, but then they’d have to expand beyond the current single page.)
Amid the rushing stream of his chatter emerge Gerry’s reasons for his dislike of his hosts: Brennan, whom Gerry sees as about as personable as an ottoman – “sure, he’s gorgeous, but so is San Diego…” – has turned his fiancé Josh, who was once Gerry’s most outrageous friend, into somebody equally bland.
“Aren’t you just a little bit scared that all of a sudden, we’re in this race to be normal, whatever that means. Is that really the goal?” He elaborates later: “Now that we can get married, I feel this weird pressure to want that. And I don’t, you know? At least not right now.”
Droege thus turns his modest, amusing solo turn into something of a bold argument for immodest (or at least unconventional) behavior in an increasingly conventional society.
“Bright Colors and Bold Patterns” is too long. It’s listed everywhere as 70 minutes, but I clocked it at 90. Perhaps as the run reaches its final week, the actor, like the character, is getting carried away.
But the turn it eventually takes is worth the wait, helped along by the direction of Michael Urie, best-known for “Ugly Betty,” who was just recently on stage in a different look at gay life, “Homos.” Day turns into night, the drugs come out, and truths and old wounds emerge. Gerry Howard is no Mary Tyrone. His truths are small, and he is aware of his self-delusions and deceptions. He is also no ghostly presence. He is fleshy, campy, catty, jokey, and, yes, bright and bold, and we’re better off for having met him.
Bright Colors and Bold Patterns
Barrow Street Theater
Written and performed by Drew Droege
Directed by Michael Urie
Set designed by Dara Wishingrad
Running time: 90 minutes with no intermission
“Bright Colors and Bold Patterns” is scheduled to run through December 30, 2016.