‘Doubt’ Routs Lortels; ‘Spelling Bee’ Also Scores
By Leonard Jacobs
Photo: Aubrey Reuben
For two decades, the Lucille Lortel Awards have saluted superlative work Off-Broadway, and when the 20th annual honors were distributed on Mon., May 2, at Dodger Stages in midtown Manhattan — with Bruce Vilanch and Julie Halston hosting — the wealth of talent honored was spread far and wide.
Among both plays and musicals, the undisputed winner of the evening was John Patrick Shanley’s “Doubt,” which captured four Lortels, including awards for best play and for Doug Hughes’ direction. Shanley can add the best play honor to a growing list of plaudits, having already won this year’s Pulitzer Prize in drama and the Dramatists Guild’s Hull-Warriner Award for the play.
In the acting categories — with performers in plays and musicals in direct competition with one another — “Doubt” struck again, with Cherry Jones and Adriane Lenox scoring Lortels for best lead and featured actress, respectively. Yet the evening had its drama, too, for Lenox figured into a rare three-way tie in the featured-actress race: Jenn Harris was also awarded, for her work in Daniel Goldfarb’s “Modern Orthodox,” as was Parker Posey, for her performance in the revival of David Rabe’s “Hurlyburly.”
Four productions received two Lortels apiece. “The 25th Annual Putnam County Spelling Bee,” with a William Finn score and Rachel Sheinkin book (and, like “Doubt,” an Off-Broadway-to-Broadway transfer), won the award for best musical as well as an honor for featured actor Dan Fogler. The Peccadillo Theatre Company, which had produced Off-Off-Broadway until its acclaimed revival of Elmer Rice’s “Counsellor-at-Law” this season, took the prize for outstanding revival and another for John Rubinstein’s lead actor performance. The much-honored Lynn Nottage play “Intimate Apparel” took technical honors for Derek McLane’s sets and Catherine Zuber’s costumes, while Heather Raffo’s “Nine Parts of Desire” won for best solo show and for Obadiah Eaves’ sound design.
Choreographer Christopher Gattelli (for the musical “Altar Boyz”) and lighting designer David Weiner (for Richard Nelson’s play “Rodney’s Wife”) rounded out the list.
As in previous years, the Lortel Awards included several special honors. Two-time Tony Award winner Frances Sternhagen received the Edith Oliver Award for Sustained Excellence, and the Irish Repertory Theatre was lauded for its outstanding body of work.
The nominating committee declined to cite any production for the previously awarded prize for unique theatrical experience. In addition to awarding the Lortels, the League of Off-Broadway Theatres and Producers also annually installs a new star onto the Playwrights’ Sidewalk, located outside the Lucille Lortel Theatre in the West Village. The 2005 inductee has not yet been announced.