Accidentally, Like a Martyr Pulls Up a Gay Bar Stool

Mart Crowley might like Grant James Varjas's new play

“The hurt gets worse/and the heart gets harder” goes the Warren Zevon tune that informs the title of Grant James Varjas’s entry into the crowded, gaggle-of-gays-sittin’-around-talkin’ canon. But the fact that Zevon is the reference and not, say, Lady Gaga, is the first hint that there’s a tad more soul in this play’s stroll. And it’s quite refreshing to see a gay-themed play that features not only a mostly middle-aged cast, but nary a flash of skin or a well-muscled backside to create a reason for existence.

Set at Christmastime in 2007 and later in the present day in a Lower East Side gay dive bar, Accidentally, Like a Martyr begins with pre-show bar murmur from its inhabitants—smartly ensconced in designer Clifton Chadick’s rectangular portraiture framing. Then we slowly meet its players. Among them are a drunken, goodnatured, aging writer (Chuck Blasius); an embittered, droll, also-aged viper (Keith McDermott); a rebounding newcomer (Cameron Pow) meeting a blind date that holds more in store than it would seem; and—since no playwright-director who also acts could ever pass up the juiciest role in an ensemble—Varjas himself playing a disgraced, cokehead cop who sets the eventual revelation of the play in motion.

The days slide by...
Ahron R. Foster
The days slide by...


Accidentally, Like a Martyr
By Grant James Varjas
Paradise Factory
64 East 4th Street
Through January 8

The latter dramatics are less effective than the smallish, more observant snippets of depressive bar life, but the overall results are mostly engaging (one late-breaking surprise is so uncynically revealed, it's hard to believe it exists in a 2011 play). Varjas has assembled a taut ensemble who create believable archetypes, especially McDermott’s weary, grasshopper-sippin’ elder and Brett Douglas’s warm, sassy, over-it bartender. If you never quite stop hearing Mart Crowley’s Boys in the Band haunting each character, Varjas’s brisk production serves nicely as a proper homage.

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