Regional Reviews: Phoenix
Bright Colors and Bold Patterns
Bright Colors ... is set in Palm Springs in 2016 and begins with Gerry arriving for the same-sex wedding of his friend, which is to be held the next day. He's staying at an Airbnb house with his former roommate and friend (who was also briefly his lover) Dwayne, Dwayne's much younger boyfriend Mack, and Dwayne's ex-boyfriend Neal. While seeing Gerry, whom he despises, meeting the clueless 23-year-old Mack, and the long, harrowing drive from Los Angeles have him frazzled, what's really set Gerry off is the wedding invitation which requests guests to not wear bright colors or bold patterns to the wedding.
As the night turns into morning, the insults fly, the alcohol flows, and drugs are shared while Gerry goes on tirades about the family members of one of the grooms who would dare tell him what he can wear, the shock that Mack doesn't know who Olympia Dukakis is, and how, in reference to the wedding invitation's request to wear drab colors, that khaki isn't a color in the gay rainbow. When Mack questions why it seems that Gerry hates or makes fun of everything, Gerry says that we can celebrate things while making fun of them at that same time. "That's called gay." Once the drugs run out and Gerry spirals further down into the pit of darkness and self-doubt, he also has a brief reflective moment on his habitual loner and outsider status. He also comes to the realization of why he isn't that excited to see his gay friends get married as he questions what this race to "normalcy" has done to the gay community. "I'm happy for them," he says, "I'm just not sure I'm happy for us."
Droege's play has an abundance of laughs and witty, catty dialogue. He also makes an interesting choice in having there technically be four characters in the play, yet we only see and hear one of them speak. So, Gerry will be going on a tirade about Coachella or a band with a period in their name and then there will be a brief moment of silence while he's listening and reacting to one of the other character's responses. It is an interesting and odd theatrical device. Also, Gerry is the type of person you either love or hate, or can only take in very small doses, and that creates another issue I have with the play. When Gerry first enters, his voice level is at an 11 out of 10 and stays at that screaming level for practically the entire show. As funny as the character is, and as great as Thompson's performance is, it starts to wear really thin after experiencing a practically non-stop wall of sound. Also, when the play turns serious toward the end, it's almost as if it's an afterthought in how brief it is. That's a shame, as what Droege has written for that moment is really good. I just wish he'd fleshed it out further to provide even more depth for Gerry. Still, if you like loud, larger than life personalities who speak with a non-stop venomous tongue, you may not be bothered by the issues I have with the piece.
Fortunately, Michael Thompson is nothing short of amazing as Gerry. I've seen Thompson in several other shows in town and it's nice to see him get a solo piece where he can truly shine. Thompson is engaging, authentic, and larger than life as this character who is a cross between a tornado and a hurricane. His stage presence is solid, his facial gestures and body language add to the humor, and he embodies Gerry with an appropriate fierceness and "take no prisoners" attitude that works. He also has no problems with the rapid-fire line delivery the script requires and making every single joke land and land perfectly.
Director Louis Farber does a good job staging the action on Douglas Clarke's amazing set that looks so realistic you'll want to move in. I only wish Farber had varied the volume a bit in Thompson's performance so there could be more variety to it and so that the ending, which is very quiet, wouldn't stick out so much. Farber's direction and Thompson's performance deliver a fully fleshed out, three-dimensional character and the sequence of black outs in the show are superbly directed and acted. Dallas Robert Nichols' lighting design beautifully evokes the changing times of day in Palm Springs, from the bright and sunny afternoon to the cool and reflective evening.
Bright Colors and Bold Patterns may not be a perfect play, as I wish there was more to the ending and more variety in Gerry's dialogue, but with Michael Thompson's assured performance it does deliver nonstop cutting asides and is chock full of references to gay icons and pop culture, while also being loud, fast and funny.
Stay Cat Theatre's Bright Colors and Bold Patterns runs through October 2, 2021, at the Tempe Center for the Arts, 700 W. Rio Salado Parkway, Phoenix AZ. For tickets and information, please call 480-227-1766 or visit straycattheatre.org
Director: Louis Farber