'The Humans' Leads Off-Broadway's Lortel Nominations

The Humans - H 2015
Courtesy of Joan Marcus

Stephen Karam's drama scored the most noms but missed out on key mentions for best play and director, pointing to a wide spread with no clear frontrunner.

The nominations for the 31st Annual Lucille Lortel Awards, the top honors for off-Broadway theater, have been announced, and Stephen Karam's acclaimed drama about a working-class Pennsylvania family's uneasy Thanksgiving gathering, The Humans, leads the field.

Or does it?

In one of the more perplexing nomination breakdowns of recent New York theater seasons, The Humans scored the highest number of mentions on Wednesday, but was overlooked in the key shortlists for best play and director. The production, which transferred to Broadway and reopened to rave reviews earlier this year, landed acting nominations for Jayne Houdyshell, Reed Birney and Lauren Klein, as well as for set design, lighting and sound.

It was nudged out of the best play stakes by Annie Baker's John and Rajiv Joseph's Guards at the Taj, which drew five noms apiece, as well as Danai Gurira's Eclipsed with three, and Lucas Hnath's The Christians and Branden Jacobs-Jenkins' Gloria, which each received two.

Of that nominated crop, only Guards at the Taj and Eclipsed made the cut for outstanding director (respectively Amy Morton and Liesl Tommy) in a field dominated by women. However, in a surprising shutout, none of the actors in either play scored a mention. That includes Lupita Nyong'o for her much-lauded turn in Eclipsed, which has also transferred to Broadway since its Public Theater premiere and, like The Humans, is believed to be a strong contender for Tony Awards attention.

Topping the musical field with five nominations is Futurity, a Civil War-set folk-infused show that ponders questions about artificial intelligence from a historical vantage point. The David Bowie musical, Lazarus, staged by director of the moment Ivo van Hove, was snubbed in the top categories but did score acting mentions for Michael C. Hall and Sophia Anne Caruso.

Other noted actors nominated this year include Phylicia Rashad for Head of Passes, Georgia Engel and Lois Smith for John, Annette O'Toole for Southern Comfort, Ed Harris and Paul Sparks for Buried Child and Timothee Chalamet for Prodigal Son.

In the revival category, which includes both plays and musicals, The Robber Bridegroom fared best with four mentions. The bluegrass-flavored Mississippi fairy tale made the list for outstanding revival, lead actor Steven Pasquale and featured actress Leslie Kritzer, who nabbed a second nomination for her work in Gigantic.

The most-nominated solo show, with three, is Julie Taymor's production of Grounded, George Brant's single-character drama about a female drone pilot, played by Anne Hathaway. However, those noms did not include mentions for the director or star.

The Lortels will be presented May 1 at NYU Skirball Center. As previously announced, James Houghton, the founding artistic director of Signature Theatre, who steps down this year after a long tenure, will be honored with the Lifetime Achievement Award.

See the complete list of 2016 nominations.