Review: ‘Bright Colors and Bold Patterns’ at Studio Theatre

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.” 

Jeff Hiller in 'Bright Colors and Bold Patterns.' Photo by C. Stanley Photography.
Jeff Hiller in ‘Bright Colors and Bold Patterns.’ Photo by C. Stanley Photography.

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.

Jeff Hiller in 'Bright Colors and Bold Patterns.' Photo by C. Stanley Photography.
Jeff Hiller in ‘Bright Colors and Bold Patterns.’ Photo by C. Stanley Photography.

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.

Bright Colors and Bold Patterns plays through July 28, 2019, at Studio Theatre, 1501 14th Street NW, Washington, DC. Purchase tickets online.

Previous article2019 Capital Fringe Review: ‘Our Town Plus Zombies’
Next article2019 Capital Fringe Review: ‘Oizys in the Waiting Room’
Lisa Traiger
An arts journalist since 1985, Lisa Traiger writes frequently on the performing arts for Washington Jewish Week and other local and national publications, including Dance, Pointe, and Dance Teacher. She also edits From the Green Room, Dance/USA’s online eJournal. She was a freelance dance critic for The Washington Post Style section from 1997-2006. As arts correspondent, her pieces on the cultural and performing arts appear regularly in the Washington Jewish Week where she has reported on Jewish drum circles, Israeli folk dance, Holocaust survivors, Jewish Freedom Riders, and Jewish American artists from Ben Shahn to Rodgers and Hammerstein, Stephen Sondheim to Y Love, Anna Sokolow to Liz Lerman. Her dance writing can also be read on DanceViewTimes.com. She has written for Washingtonian, The Forward, Moment, Dance Studio Life, Stagebill, Sondheim Review, Asian Week, New Jersey Jewish News, Atlanta Jewish Times, and Washington Review. She received two Simon Rockower Awards for Excellence in Arts Criticism from the American Jewish Press Association; a 2009 shared Rockower for reporting; and in 2007 first-place recognition from the Maryland-Delaware-D.C. Press Association. In 2003, Traiger was a New York Times Fellow in the Institute for Dance Criticism at the American Dance Festival in Durham, N.C. She holds an M.F.A. in choreography from the University of Maryland, College Park, and has taught dance appreciation at the University of Maryland and Montgomery College, Rockville, Md. Traiger served on the Dance Critics Association Board of Directors from 1991-93, returned to the board in 2005, and served as co-president in 2006-2007. She was a member of the advisory board of the Dance Notation Bureau from 2008-2009.