issue is resolved..
I created a docker instance of Perch following the instructions on the blog as well as the github files located at https://github.com/PerchCMS/simple-docker..
the containers work, I am able to connect to the database via a GUI (heidisql) but the installation fails. I first wanted to try perch but that didn't work so downloaded runway (which has debug output at the bottom).. both Perch and Runway returned the same error messages so I am assuming the problem exists in both.
Additionally using "localhost" instead of the ip address results in a different message: SQLSTATE[HY000]  No such file or directory
PHP Version 7.4.6.
PS - can I get this post approved? I've got deadlines and planned on evaluating this product for a customer.