“That was exactly what you said it would be,” my date Sarah told me as soon as the house lights came up at the end of the curtain call. “Fucking hilarious, and very very gay.” And indeed it was. Drew Droege’s play, Bright Colors and Bold Patterns is fucking hilarious and very very gay.
In an extended run now playing at SoHo Playhouse, the play now stars Jeff Hiller as Gerry, a gay man of a certain age, who arrives at an AirBnB in Palm Springs with a Corona in hand and armed with an arsenal of cultural references to shoot at his compatriots for the weekend. Gary is in town for his friends Josh and Brennan’s wedding and is sharing a rented house with his ex-roommate and ex-lover Dwayne, Dwayne’s new boyfriend Mac, and Dwayne’s other ex-boy toy Neil. What could go wrong? Over the course of 12 hours or so, Gerry insists that there will be no drama and then proceeds to stir the pot with every single person on the patio and brutally gossip about the grooms and their families. Most of Gerry’s anger stems from a note on the wedding invite asking that bright colors and bold patterns be left at home in the closet, a not-so-subtle euphemism for leave your loud and explosive gay personality at home in the closet. Drinks are poured, cocaine is snorted, and questions are asked: Do all gays have to want to get married? Is it okay to not want or need marriage? What now, now that gay men have marriage equality?
Directed by Michael Urie, Jeff Hiller is a star. His collaboration with Urie has resulted in a nuanced and hilarious performance, one where the audience immediately trusts Hiller to take us on a ride with him. His performance is so crystal-clear that even when the writing falters, as it gets serious for about 7 minutes of the 80-minute romp, we’re still hooked because we’re waiting for his next wisecrack to shut the house down. Urie and Hiller have created extremely clear focal points for each of the other on-stage characters – the ex, the ex’s ex, the ex’s new boy and the writing allows us to nearly hear exactly what they’re saying to Gerry in the brief moments he allows them to speak.
Which is to say that Gerry is obsessed with himself in a way that feels specifically unique to gay men: his endless diatribes about his drive from LA to Palm Springs or complaining about Brennan’s family function to not only show how fast he can whip out a reference to Kenny Leon’s production of Steel Magnolias or Sheena Easton, but also to hide the most vulnerable parts of himself. As a gay man writing about this show,I found that this is where it resonated for me. Droege has written a character who I recognize in so many of my friends and found family, as well as myself. When the vulnerable parts of him begin to seep through the cracks and he begins to ask the thematic questions of the play, the substance of the writing feels less true. But as gay men become close to one another and let themselves really be seen by those closest to them, this is when we get real.
As the sun rises on a new wedding day, and Gerry begins to sober up, the audience is treated to one final moment of silence. One that doesn’t need a diatribe or a speech about living life to the gayest. In this moment, the audience is left to fill in the blank and understand that this is the real Gerry: standing at the edge of the pool, looking out at us, content, fucking hilarious, and very very gay.
Bright Colors and Bold Patterns runs to April 1, 2018. More production info can be found here.