Just about every one of us has a friend like Gerry, the central character in Drew Droege's one-man comedy Bright Colors and Bold Patterns. Gerry is loud, flamboyant, funny, and very opinionated. He talks so fast that hardly anyone else can get a word in. And when he drinks, he gets even louder, while also letting his filter completely down so he starts saying incredibly insulting things about people, some of whom are within earshot. In Stray Cat Theatre's production of this recent Off-Broadway play, Michael Thompson is giving a tour de force performance as Gerry. It's just too bad the play isn't quite up to the level of Thompson's talent.
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...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.