Presented by Other Side Productions and 28bars Productions, Accidentally, Like a Martyr continues through Jan. 8, 2012.
Varjas directs and appears alongside a cast that includes Kevin Boseman (Equus), Brett Douglas (My Big Gay Italian Wedding), Ken Forman (Wilder, Wilder, Wilder), Keith McDermott (Equus), Cameron Pow (The Lion King) and Chuck Blasius (an actor-playwright known for Bette & Kate Join the Line, We Were Here and Lonely Too Long).
Accidentally, Like a Martyr takes place in the Lower East Side. Here's how the show is billed: "Set in a bar populated by men from different backgrounds and generations who are at once both regulars and irregular, the play depicts them at their hangout as they while away a seemingly quiet winter evening. Fueled by drinks and other stimulants, those gathered reveal secrets, open old wounds, and covet new visitors in a funny and poignant manner that is both original and reminiscent of landmark plays such as Mart Crowley's The Boys in the Band and Tennessee Williams' Small Craft Warnings, plays that served as touchstones for gay people then and now."
Varjas is the writer and composer of the GLAAD-nominated play with music 33 To Nothing, which was directed Off-Broadway by Randal Myler. He is also a member of the Tectonic Theatre Company, where he has collaborated with Moises Kaufman on various projects as a writer and actor, ranging from the film version of "The Laramie Project" to the recent play 33 Variations starring Jane Fonda.
Varjas told Playbill.com that the play was inspired by gay men in his life. "I had previously written and acted in a play called 33 to Nothing, which was almost embarrassingly autobiographical, and I really wanted to get away from that," he explained. "Every one of the characters in …Martyr originated from someone I know or knew. Then, after being filtered through my mind and mixed with my feelings and views, they began to emerge as new entities. The final step was hearing the play aloud in readings and workshops, where the actors' voices and personalities helped me refine and deepen the characters even more. The result was a group of characters that were all much more fleshed out and real than any roles I had previously written." Of the play's gay watering-hole milieu, the playwright said, "I've always been a big fan of smaller, older and less-crowded gay bars — I do a lot of writing in them, actually — especially in the late afternoon, when there is usually a group of regulars hanging around. I found the dynamics of these men as they related to each other (and to the bartender) to be fascinating and touching, almost family-like. It was while sitting in those bars that the ideas and characters of ...Martyr started to take shape."
Does gay culture's emphasis on youth and beauty inform the play?
"I think so," Varjas said. "I really wanted the play to explore the relationships (or lack thereof) between the generations of gay men who lived through the first appearance of HIV/AIDS and lost so many friends and loved ones, and the younger gay men, who have a completely different relationship to the disease and sex in general. I think often of all the great artists, dancers, actors, directors, writers, painters, photographers whose work was cut short by the disease. Think of all the amazing work we will never get to see, think of all the talented people who didn't live long enough to get the recognition and success that they deserved. Be thankful for what we have."
He cautioned, "The play is not all sadness and loss; it is primarily about friendship and family — and how for a lot of gay men, their friends and lovers are their chosen family, and just as dear to them as their actual families. And sometimes moreso. The play is also funny. This is, for the most part, it's about a group of very smart and very witty men— people that you would be fortunate to sit next to in a bar during a quiet Happy Hour."
Other members of the creative team include set designer Clifton Chadick, lighting designer Brian Tovar and sound designer Roger Anderson.
Other Side Productions presents original or lesser-known plays, musicals and films, which embrace themes that are sentimental as well as sociopolitical.
Paradise Factory is located at 64 E. 4th Street in Manhattan. For more information and tickets, call (212) 352-3101 or visit www.ovationtix.com.
The play has a weekend-long developmental run in June 2010 at The Wild Project in New York City.