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  • Writer's pictureAnthony Chase

Bright Colors and Bold Patterns


To deepen your appreciation for James Cichocki’s performance and Drew Droege’s script for Bright Colors and Bold Patterns, now at Buffalo United Artists, do yourself a favor and indulge in the genius of Ruth Draper.

Draper is said to have invented the modern monologue.

From 1920, until her death in 1956, she gave solo performances. In these sketches she would play the central character, but in the process would conjure all of the other people in the room. During the performance you would know where every imaginary person was in the room and you’d even begin to see what they looked like.

Among Draper’s famed pieces the most celebrated is probably “The Italian Lesson,” in which she plays a socialite who is trying to manage her boisterous home from her bedroom while simultaneously taking an Italian lesson. In another she plays an eager debutante at a Dance. There’s one in which she plays a woman trying to take friends out to lunch but all seem to be on fad diets. There is one in which she plays a severe German governess with a group of children and one in which she portrays a women teaching a class in Greek poise to a group of Midwestern women.

I first learned of Ruth Draper when interviewing actor Julie Harris and her director, Charles Nelson Reilly. When Draper’s name came into the conversation, I had to ask who she was, Reilly excitedly exclaimed, “Oh Anthony. This is an emergency!”

Within a week, I had borrowed Ruth Draper’s recorded monologues from the library. (There is no film of Draper’s performances).

In 2014 I enjoyed the treat of seeing Annette Bening perform four of Draper’s monologues in Los Angeles. It was a thrill to see monologues I had only heard brought to life.

Drew Droege’s “Bright Colors and Bold Patterns” has a great deal in common with the Draper monologues. An actor, this time James Cichocki, is called upon to create the world of his character, including all the people with whom he interacts. He never impersonates the others; he merely listens. Like a Draper monologue, the script is light on plot but vivid with character and droll wit.

As Ruth Draper famously did, and as Annette Bening did with Ruth Draper’s material, James Cichocki again proves that half of great acting is contained in the listening. Even when no one else is actually talking!

Directed by Carly Weiser, “Bright Colors and Bold Patterns” continues through October 5 at the Alleyway Cabaret, 672 Main Street. Fridays and Saturdays at 8 pm.


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