Accidentally, Like a Martyr

By Grant James Varjasa red orchid theatre

Directed by Shade Murray

At A Red Orchid Theatre, Chicago

Slice-of-life gay dark comic-drama examines grief, loss and loneliness

The atmosphere is immediate as we enter a dive-y gay bar on Manhattan’s Lower East Aide (terrific set design by John Holt depicting a functioning wet bar). This slice-of-life dark comic-drama features a group of gay men, regulars who frequent ‘their’ bar to drink, socialize and trade sarcasm. This little dive is more than a watering hole, it is a quaint community, a refuge for the grieving and lonely gays.  The story takes place on December 22 in alternately 2005 and the present. This is a particularly gloomy time as the Christmas holidays produce old  painful memories for the patrons.

(l-r) Ensemble Member Doug Vickers, Luce Metrius, Troy West, Ensemble Member Steve Haggard, David Cerda, Layne Manzer and Dominique Worsley

We meet the regulars, Edmund (Troy West) a 50-something writer who drinks more than he writes in 2005 but finds his ‘voice’ and pen as he celebrates finishing his book in the present. He is now sober. Among his contemporaries is Charles (Doug Vickers), plump 50-something with a razor-sharp tongue who is grieving getting old and the loss of his man. He and Edmund spar about everything, especially Edmund’s choice of disco music.  Jeffrey (Dominique Worsley) is the bartender who referees the interaction while serving drinks. Brenden (Layne Manzer) is the hyper-active coke head that is constantly testing Jeffrey’s goodwill as well as often shooting barbs at Edmund and Charles as Brendan refers to their age despite him, at age 37, creeping up toward the ‘too old’ list for gay matchmaking.

Ensemble Member Steve Haggard, Luce Metrius

We see Brendan, in flashbacks from 2005 when his NYPD career ended once his coke addiction overwhelmed him as he  interacts with his middle aged lover, Scott (David Cerda). While these 2005 scenes are important to the story, it isn’t clear that they are flashbacks, thus confusing the audience. But they become clearer once Mark (Steve Haggard) enters the bar in the present time. Mark is a 30something guy who is nervously waiting for someone. Charles and Edmund innocently flirt with him despite their knowing that they have no chance with him. Mark is polite with them but he doesn’t take to Brendan hyper-obnoxious demeanor. Brendan once more jets out of the bar as his manic activities dictate. When J (Luce Matrius) wonders into the dive, Mark believes that he may be his date from the Internet chat room since he doesn’t have a photo of his date, only a screen name.

Luce Metrius, Ensemble Member Steve Haggard, Troy West

Without giving away more plot twists, let me say that Accidentally, Like a Martyr is realistic look at restless men as they battle, joke, and drink their way through a lonely evening as the holidays loom. The generations collide, backgrounds haggle, secrets are revealed as old wounds reopen as these survivors struggle with their drink-infused memories. Grief, loneliness and aging surface as the maudlin reflections of life come into focus.

Accidentally, Like a Martyr is a true ensemble work containing outstanding performances, especially from Doug Vickers as the old queen and Steve Haggard as the grieving 30something. This 85 minute one-act is haunting as it vividly depicts how a special community of gay men gather over drinks to deal with their angst. Humor and poignancy combine for a worthy drama.

Recommended

Tom Williams

Talk Theatre in Chicago podcast

Date Reviewed: January 19, 2015

Jeff Recommended

For more info checkout the Accidentally, Like a Martyr page at theatreinchicago.com

At A Red Orchid Theatre, 1531 N.Wells, Chicago, IL, www.aredorchidtheatre.org, tickets $30-$35, Thursdays, Fridays, Saturdays at 8 pm, Sundays at 3 pm, running time is 85 minutes without an intermission, through March 1, 2015