Highly Recommended **** Over the years of attending Red Orchid Theatre on Wells Street, in Old Town, I have found that the intimacy of the space makes the play they present more memorable. In many cases, we, the audience feel as if the actors can reach out and touch us at any moment. Their current production, “Accidentally, Like a Martyr” written by Grant James Varjas is just such a play. This play is sort of a “Cheers”, only sleazier (after all, we are in Manhattan, not Boston) and this bar is a Gay one , on the lower East Side. It is a somewhat humor filled 90 minutes, but with enough story and drama to satisfy those who feel there must be some drama in Old Town.
Smoothly directed by Shade Murray is an ensemble piece requiring a great deal from the actors, and Murray gets it done. I must also give credit to fight co-ordinator Ryan Bourque for a job well done. Remember, we are very close to the action and the fight scene appeared very real. The story, for the record is a sort of sit-com where these bar patrons do verbal battle, joke with each others and drink, to excess in what appears a regular routine. There were some time sequences that were a bit confusing, but never took away from the strength of this cast.
The barkeep, Jeffrey (Dominique Worsley) manages to keep the patrons on their toes and coming back despite newer, more up-to-date saloons/cocktail lounges in the neighborhood. Edmund (deftly handled by Troy West) is an author and during this story we learn a great deal about his life. There is also a bit of a surprise ending that takes us to a place we could never have imagined. Charles (Doug Vickers is superb in this role) is a sharp-witted older man, who knows who he is and where his life is headed. Brendan (Layne Manzer) is a bit younger than the aforementioned regulars. He is also involved with drugs along with his drink and was at one time a police officer, but has been a lost soul for some time.
While these are the main characters and we get to know them early, during one of the time sequences, Brendan has a scene with Scott (David Cerda), who we meet a bit later in another flashback scene. The other characters who we meet at this bar are Mark (solidly played by Steve haggard) who appears on the scene to meet someone that he has met on the internet, his mystery man. As we watch him pace and look at his cell phone for a message, we learn that he has a boyfriend, who at one time frequented this very bar, but without him. It turns out that this boyfriend died several years earlier, while going home from the bar. As we watch the regulars try and connect with Mark, a newcomer enters the bar. He is called J (Luce Metrius) and while Mark is sure that this is his mystery man, we later come to find that he has a different purpose to be there.
In fact, the mystery does come out and I will not take you there as it is a clever bit of writing. Being somewhat of a mystery buff, I more often than not, figure these things out, but as Varjas wrote it and Murray directed it, the mystery stays intact until just the right moment- sheer perfection for the audience as they were all taken by surprise.
John Holt’s tavern is very realistic. Rachel K. Levy (lighting), Brandon Triantafillou (lighting), Karen Kawa (costumes) and Arianna Soloway ( an amazing job of assembling props) are all very important parts of keeping the audience into the story. Each a part of the recipe that creates good theater!
“Accidentally, Like a Martyr” has no moral, but rather shows us how these men, from different generations and lifestyles, true survivors, come to grips with the life changes they experience, aging itself and the changing of the times. They may not have a real family, but those that frequent this bar, are the family they thought they were missing. You can see this enchantingly comical, and as I said “gay” version of “Cheers” through March 1st at A Red Orchid Theatre located at 1531 N. Wells Street with performances as follows:
Thursdays 8 p.m.
Fridays 8 p.m.
Saturdays 8 p.m.
Tickets range from $30-$35 for open seating (there are no bad seats in this space) and can be purchased by calling 312-943-8722 or online at www.aredorchidtheatre.org
Parking is metered on Wells and some of the dining spots do offer valet service.
To see what others are saying, visit www.theatreinchicago.com, go to Review Round-up and click at “Accidentally, Like a Martyr”