'The Night Alive,' 'All the Way' and 'Fun Home' Take New York Drama Critics Awards
Special citations went to the Shakespeare's Globe double of "Twelfth Night" and "Richard III," and to playwright-director Richard Nelson's four-part cycle, "The Apple Family Plays."
NEW YORK – There are few clues to be gathered about which way the Tony Awards winds will blow from this year's New York Drama Critics Circle honors, in which one Broadway play squeaked by to a win and another production scored a special citation. But the group's voting was otherwise all over the theater map and rarely unified in any kind of consensus.
Now in its 79th year, the critics organization reached a relatively easy agreement on the prize for best musical. That honor went on the second ballot to Fun Home, adapted by writer-lyricist Lisa Kron and composer Jeanine Tesori from Alison Bechdel's tragicomic graphic novel about the gay father and daughter of a family mortuary business, both of whom are dealing with issues of sexual identity.
Over the weekend, Sam Gold's production for the Public Theater also won for outstanding musical at the Lucille Lortel Awards, the top honors given exclusively to off-Broadway theater. While no details have been confirmed, Fun Home is slated to return in a commercial run during the coming season, likely opening on Broadway in spring 2015.
The winner for best play was a more contentious choice, going after multiple rounds of voting to Irish dramatist Conor McPherson's The Night Alive, about a down-on-his-luck Dubliner whose outlook is changed by an encounter with a troubled woman. Directed by the playwright, that work came to off-Broadway's Atlantic Theater Company from London's Donmar Warehouse with a cast that included Ciaran Hinds and Jim Norton.
Other plays that ranked highly in the voting included Robert Schenkkan's political bio-drama about President Lyndon B. Johnson and the passing of the Civil Rights Act, All the Way; Will Eno's idiosyncratic take on the classic American family play, The Open House; and Domesticated, Bruce Norris' scathing dissection of gender politics viewed through the prism of a power couple's marriage, rocked by scandal.
The NYDCC rules allow that if a foreign play takes the top prize, as it did this year, then a separate award can be voted for best American play. Given the shortage of unanimous views on any one title, there was wide dissent as to whether that additional award should be given. However, the group eventually settled after a fourth ballot on All the Way, which secured its victory by a margin of just one vote. That production, directed on Broadway by Bill Rauch, is also in the running for Tonys for best play and lead actor in a play, Bryan Cranston.
The voting body, which includes 22 New York-based drama critics from daily newspapers, magazines, wire services and websites, also agreed to present a special citation to the Elizabethan-style Shakespeare's Globe double bill of Twelfth Night and Richard III. Directed by Tim Carroll and featuring an all-male ensemble, those Broadway imports became the major theater event of fall in New York. Twelfth Night is in the running for seven Tonys, including best revival, director, lead actor Samuel Barnett and featured actors Mark Rylance, Paul Chahidi and Stephen Fry, while Richard III secured Rylance, a two-time previous winner, a second Tony nod this year for his turn in the title role.
An additional special citation was awarded to playwright-director Richard Nelson and the company of The Apple Family Plays. An ambitiously structured quartet of interlinked works focusing on the personal and political views of one liberal family in Rhinebeck, N.Y., the premiere of each was tied to key events in American life as they were unfolding. The cycle includes That Hopey Changey Thing, Sweet and Sad, Sorry and Regular Singing. Also presented at the Public Theater, those plays have been filmed for future broadcast on PBS.
The NYDCC awards will be presented at a cocktail reception on May 16 at Manhattan cabaret venue 54 Below.