Gerry is mad. Furious even. And who can blame him? He’s all set for the wedding of the … well … summer. He’s driven out the I10 from Los Angeles to Palm Springs and the expensively tasteful invitation states: “Please refrain from wearing bright colors or bold patterns.”
The gall! Someone wants to reign in loquacious Gerry’s outré wardrobe. He’s in a huff about it. But he just tut-tuts and snaps. He’ll have none of it. At least not without having his say, and then some.
So begins Drew Droege’s one-man gab-fest about all things gay, and gay. There are plenty of catty remarks about taupe wardrobe choices, juicy gossip, juicier reminiscences about living with old boyfriends in a Washington Heights walkup, and endless references to ‘90s television and pop culture icons, from Dana Delaney to “Steel Magnolias,” “Murder She Wrote,” and Olympia Dukakis. But Gerry doesn’t just go on about the past, he’s totally up on Coachella fashion, and new bands like The 1975 and Portugal. The Man – and, yes, that second band does put a period in its title. “Ugh,” says Gerry.
Bright Colors and Bold Patterns is a summery show with designer Dara Wishingrad’s breezy poolside setting, with white deck furniture with bright turquoise and pink pillow highlights, a well-stocked bar, and that unseen pool, just about where the audience sits at small cabaret tables in the Milton Theatre. The production, directed by popular “Ugly Betty” actor Michael Urie – who’s no stranger to DC stages – feels like a summer weekend in Rehoboth, but bitchier on gossipy steroids. As Gerry, actor Jeff Hiller is all-in for this solo show. He is a textbook drama queen – with a capital D and Q, chattering to his unseen companions (Mac, Dwayne, and Neil) for what seems like hours. Though the show runs for just 80 minutes, Gerry runs at about 80 mph.
As Gerry, Hiller relishes the flamboyant, high-strung and successively drunker and more stoned character he plays. We first meet Gerry as he enters the swanky poolside setting sipping a Corona Lite. Later he dips into a few margaritas and is soon stooped over snorting coke with ecstatic glee. His fever dream of a night of debauchery tones down considerably when his two buddies take off, leaving him alone to converse with Mac, who is so young he never even saw Dana Delaney in “China Beach.” What a tragedy!
Yet Hiller lays bare some shadings that make Gerry more interesting than a limp-wristed, catty drama queen. We learn about how he struggled with the realization that as a child growing up in Georgia he felt exceedingly different, and not in a way that he could fix. And, now, as an adult, he still feels like an outsider – lonely and unloved. And while he doesn’t question or begrudge those who choose it, gay marriage? It’s not for him.
Bright Colors and Bold Patterns is excessively fun and funny, but it also deepens the conversation about gay rights and marriage equality – it’s a choice, not a requirement or sentence. So when Gerry asks: “All of a sudden we’re in this to be normal, whatever that means. It that really the goal?” his voice hits a plaintive note. In the end, though, Gerry leaves with a dull ache. It might be a hangover, but more likely it’s a bruised heart aching for love.
But, beyond that revelatory moment, it’s hard not to love – and laugh out loud at – Droege’s one-liners and aphorisms: “You’re shy? Sorry, you’re an adult, not a child. Try harder.” “This [inane pop culture references from the ‘90s] matters to us like venture capitalism matters to you.” “Presbyterians are known as the chosen frozen.” And, “Bright colors are Laura Ashley for God hates fags.” Catty? Absolutely. Gerry has the answer: “We celebrate this while we make fun of them. Honey, that’s called gay.”
Running Time: 80 minutes, without intermission.