The Playgoer: OBIEs '08 Potpourri

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Wednesday, May 21, 2008

OBIEs '08 Potpourri

My at-the-scene OBIES account is out in today's Voice.

It was a fun night, and short, but maybe it just felt that way because last year they gave out a reportedly unusual high amount of awards. Committee chair Michael Feingold and crew put on a classy yet humble show, and I especially appreciated Michael's opening the ceremonies with a little Brecht in the original German. (In English the quote was: "If the cattle could get together and talk things over, the slaughterhouse wouldn't last long.") Indeed it was a night for the critics to let the artists run the asylum.

Miscellaneous highlights:

Host Bill Camp plugging his wife/co-host Liz Marvel's star Broadway turn in MTC's Top Girls adding "And stay for the 3rd act." Not everyone has, y'see...

David Henry Hwang accepting for the autobiographical Yellow Face: "I want to thank the judges for rewarding my megalomania."

Watching grown professional actresses in the audience whip out their cell phones to snap pics of presenter Jonathan Groff.

The youthful Sean McNall (leading man of the Pearl Theatre) recalling first learning of OBIE existence as a teenager leafing through the Sam French copy of The Indian Wants the Bronx, for which Al Pacino won one. More different the two actors could not be. Yet a touching passing of the torch moment nonetheless.

Stew--who made no bones about having enjoyed the open bar throughout the evening--starting his Passing Strange set looking out over the Webster Hall proscenium and reminiscing, "This used to be Ritz, y'know that? I saw Gang of 4 here!"

And the number they did from Passing Strange? Yes, that TV-censored menage a trois cha-cha, "We Had Sex." Way to get back at WCBS, guys!

Francis Jue, winning actor for Yellow Face, invoking with pride his parents' admonition to him as a little one: "You're a Jue! You'll have to work 10 times harder than everyone else!"

Finally it was hard not to ponder during Passing Strange's triumph how this may all be repeated at the Tonys next month. How lucky the show played both Off Broadway (last summer) and Broadway in the same season. Its chief Tony competitor, In the Heights, opened OB earlier and so was saluted at last year's OBIE's. But--when the Stew crew received their award from one Priscilla Lopez (a star of said Latino musical) was I alone in picking up on the rivalry to come?...Who will prevail? Tune in next month for the Tonys--or shall we say OBIES II. (This time it's uptown!)

If you still haven't seen a list of all the individual awards, here you go...


PLAYWRITING Horton Foote Dividing the Estate; David Henry Hwang Yellow Face

PERFORMANCE Veanne Cox Sustained excellence of performance; LisaGay Hamilton The Ohio State Murders; Joel Hatch Adding Machine; Francis Jue Yellow Face; Sean McNall (Sustained excellence of performance); Kate Mulgrew Iphigenia 2.0; Heidi Schreck Drum of the Waves of Horikawa;Rebecca Wisocky Amazons and Their Men; Ensemble of Passing Strange: de'Adre Aziza, Daniel Breaker, Eisa Davis, Colman Domingo, Chad Goodridge, Rebecca Naomi Jones, and Stew

DIRECTION David Cromer Adding Machine; Krzysztof Warlikowski Krum

DESIGN Jane Greenwood (Sustained excellence of costume design);Takeshi Kata (set) and Keith Parham (lighting) Adding Machine; Peter Ksander (set) Untitled Mars (this title may change); David Zinn (Sustained excellence of set and costume design); Scenic design for The Slug Bearers of Kayrol Island Ben Katchor (drawings), Jim Findlay and Jeff Sugg (set and projection design), and Russell H. Champa (lighting)

SPECIAL CITATIONS David Greenspan The Argument;Nature Theater of Oklahoma No Dice

BEST NEW AMERICAN THEATER PIECE Passing Strange by Stew and Heidi Rodewald in collaboration with Annie Dorsen

THE ROSS WETZSTEON AWARD Cherry Lane Theatre Mentor Project

OBIE GRANTS Keen Company; The Theater of a Two-Headed Calf

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