Sunday, December 3, 2017

Review: Drew Droege's Wild Ride

By Michael Block

Weddings. They bring family and friends together to celebrate the bond of two people in love. But the legal union of matrimony isn’t always for everyone. We all may have that right in this country today, but in certain cases, some people are better off on their own. Enter Gerry, the main character of Drew Droege’s Bright Colors And Bold Patterns. Playing the Soho Playhouse, the return of Droege’s hilarious comedy continues to resonate despite a slightly dated message.
Gerry is invited to the wedding of Josh and Brennan. He and his old friend Dwayne, along with Mack’s boyfriend and his ex Neil, rent a house nearby. As soon as Gerry arrives, he starts talking about everything and seemingly never stops. A thesis in post marriage equality, Gerry questions why a big celebration and why marriage at all, ignited by the attire request on the wedding invitation. Bright Colors And Bold Patterns is Mr Toad’s Wild Ride of solo comedies. Droege’s writing is snappy and accessible. In a way, Gerry represents an “everygay” stereotype. Sure, this may offend some as the character of Gerry can simply be called “extra.” The conceit of the show Droege drafts is Gerry is the only seen character. He interacts with a trio of others despite not being present to the audience. So are these people real, unlike Gerry’s imaginary boyfriend he eventually reveals, or is he conducting the conversations he wishes he could have? The ambiguity plays highly into Droege’s quick tempo comedy, aptly directed by the brilliant Michael Urie, a sharp comedian in his own right. The combination of Droege and Urie is quite possibly why this production moves as swiftly as it does. With only one moment of reprieve for the audience, and actor alike, once you strap your seatbelt on, you’re off to the races. Droege bounces from menial stories to personal exposition to significant hot topics by balancing the weight for the audience without becoming daunting or overwhelming. The title of the play refers to a line on the card regarding the wedding attire. It is something shocking to Gerry. How dare anyone try to hide the pride at a wedding? This request plays a big part of the story yet it never fully resolved itself. We never quite get to see what Gerry is going to wear. Though, you can assume it’s up to us to decide. Will Gerry submit or is he playing by his own rules?
photo by Russ Rowland
Wearing two hats as writer and performer, Drew Droege seamlessly balanced the two. The character of Gerry is a loose lipped, mile-a-minute person who seems to have lost his filter. You might say he has verbal diarrhea. He’s the sort of person who has a plethora of thoughts, but when they leave his mouth, it’s certainly unrehearsed given the tempo and frequency of his observations. Droege is a high energy performer who has the ability to make his material fresh and new, fitting for this character. Droege crafts a character that is able to read anyone in the room while still remaining genuine. There is immense difficulty by being the sole performer on stage that is required to engage in conversation with unseen people. Droege remains present while listening to his imaginary scene partners. And this is a big part of where the comedy comes in.
Pairing Droege with Michael Urie is a winning combination. Urie pilots Droege through his unhinged character and his rollercoaster writing. Dara Wishingrad has designed an exceptional poolside getaway. It’s colorful splashes of white and blue mixed into the outdoor furniture sets a relaxing ambiance that easily puts your mind at ease. Wishingrad’s brilliant use of depth is extended into the depths of the stage which allows the audience to get a glimpse of the inside of the house. If ever there was a misfire, it’s the unfortunate black platform used to raise the dining table and chairs. The umbrella naturally gives levels and Urie only has Droege use the area late in the game. While it’s fine that the stage is black, there needed to be something, even if it was artificial grass, to cover up this evident theatrical platform.
Bright Colors And Bold Patterns is a mostly satisfying comedy that keeps the mind racing. In its return engagement, Drew Droege maintains the fun and quirkiness of his script. While it desires to be a beat or two shorter, Droege’s accessible commentary keeps the play current.