It’s fast. It’s furious. It’s fast, furious and funny, but only in the way that a loud, “too much,” out and proud gay man can do fast and furious and funny all at the same time. This show leaves the speed limit in the dust like dinner party guests throwing ‘Steel Magnolia’ quotes at each other after eighteen rounds of cocktails.
This show leaves the speed limit in the dust like dinner party guests throwing ‘Steel Magnolia’ quotes at each other after eighteen rounds of cocktails.
Jeff Hiller is Gerry, piloting this mad monologue as it weaves in and out of every aspect of his life and his opinions and his beliefs. Gerry blows into Palm Springs from L.A.; he, his ex-boyfriend and roommate from New York, his ex-bf’s new boyfriend, and another ex of the ex-bf are all staying at a house together to attend the wedding weekend of a gay couple (got that?) Gerry is slightly drunk, proceeds to get drunker and is thrilled that at least the ex of the ex-bf is good for bringing the cocaine in (and later there’s some weed). The parents of the affianced have requested that no bright colors or bold patterns be worn to any of the events/ceremony/reception. Evidently they want a quiet, “tasteful” backdrop against which to clutch their pearls. This sets the scene for an alcohol/drug-induced and pain-fueled diatribe (with numerous asides) on assimilation v. freedom.
So Gerry takes umbrage at this request on the wedding invitation itself (he takes umbrage at a lot, but it’s mercilessly hysterical, and quick to pass, except when it isn’t); he doesn’t own anything not bright and bold. More to the point, he has no intention of begging, borrowing or buying anything khaki to wear to the wedding. He doesn’t understand why there isn’t room for everyone at this wedding; he has no interest in gay marriage or advocating for it if it means he can’t still be himself—he doesn’t want to choose assimilation v. freedom.
Hiller is so good at this role, that while he’s talking and laughing and joking and being bitingly mean, you forget it’s a monologue. Somehow your ear starts filling in the three other (non-existent) peoples’ dialogue. As Gerry, he can be your best friend and/or your worst nightmare (it is possible to do both at once), but he will never stop being who he is. His very being is engaged in the argument on whether to assimilate quietly or go for full inclusion.
And that’s a very pointed question to consider, as anyone who doesn’t fit into society’s rather narrow parameters has found out. Do you stay true to yourself, or do you button down, tidy up, and look as bland and non-threatening as possible in order to “represent” your tribe as being worthy? When does that first wave of trying to fit in in order to achieve some safety and rights give in to oppression and what will that do to a movement? The play may not give any neat, pat answers, but it asks the question, and right smartly.
While Gerry’s ex-bf, the ex-bf’s new bf, and the ex-bf’s other ex-bf all try to reason with him on respecting other people’s wishes, Gerry isn’t buying that. Gerry instinctively sees through the familial request (by the parents of the two men, not the two men themselves) and you can see his whole being recoil in repugnance at the charade.
Luckily for us, Drew Droege, who wrote this play, lightens the topic with bold brass and shiny snark. He is also a whiz bang on the cultural references, and kindly enough, there were enough for older theatre-goers to have some hearty laughs and enough for younger theatre-goers to have the same. And frankly, with Hiller’s delivery, sometimes you didn’t have to get the reference to catch the barb and it was enough.
Michael Urie directs Hiller (who was maybe just born to play this role?) or maybe just gets out of his way once the structure is in place. Urie’s pacing is brisk and even when Hiller momentarily goes offstage into the “kitchen” to get more drinks, his voice floating out just sounds like it should—thrown over the shoulder and still part of the convo.
Dara Wishingrad is responsible for the scenic design and the cool, tropical colours and outside bar with loungers and stools look just right for an upscale Airbnb. The theatre itself (on the second floor) is set with little cabaret tables and chairs on the tiers (as well as a couple of rows of regular seating) and the bar is enticingly just outside. It’s very comfortable.
Advisory: Language, adult themes, drugs and alcohol
Running Time: 80 minutes with no intermission.
“Bright Colors and Bold Patterns” runs through July 28, 2019, Studio Theatre, Washington, DC. For more information, please click here.