Monday, May 19, 2008

Drama Desks: The show goes on...

...but happily last night's awards ceremony did not go and on, as it did last year. This was my first year as an attendee, and with Lora radiant in a black maternity dress we were treated to a zippily paced program that came in at the 2:15 mark. Much of the fun came from the presenters, the four-person cast of the Broadway-bound [title of show]--which was not nominated for Drama Desks in its original Off Broadway incarnation two years back, and which they were not shy to satirize. There were some terrifically funny speeches as well, from winners including Linda Lavin and August: Osage County author Tracy Letts, who got a big laugh wondering how his mammoth show will play "with a cast from the Love Boat" once its Steppenwolf members depart. And there were touching moments, too, notably from Gypsy winners Patti LuPone, Laura Benanti (who hoped her parents' server was working as they watched the live webcast on, and Boyd Gaines. I liked the anything-goes vibe behind it, as well--anyone up there was free to curse, ramble, or behave very eccentrically (the last would be Boeing-Boeing winner Mark Rylance), unlike at the televised Tonys. The "Deskies," as the hosts called them, were clubby-comfortable without pretense, and I for one did not miss the production numbers and hoo-hah that slow or mar so many award presentations of its type.

The night got a real lift from the before and after parties besides. The Hawaiian Tropic lounge on 49th Street always looks to me like a better place to get a lap dance than a dinner, and was a slightly ironic choice given how pallid relentlessly showgoing Drama Deskers look by the end of the season. But the food was excellent (and plentiful) and the service with a smile and a tan followed suit. Afterwards John's Pizza on 44th kept the pasta and slices coming, and I didn't make it home till well after 2am.

As for the winners, well, we nominators presented a very mixed menu, and the voting members pretty much selected from the Broadway entrees, as if often the case. (With interesting results: The 12-"Deskies" nominated A Catered Affair was shut out, and the singly-nominated The Seafarer and Cry-Baby were lauded.) For some this is a crisis. I would however place that word in quote marks. The many Off and Off Off Broadway nominees I talked to consider the nomination itself a win, given the staggering amount of potential competition they're up against (I know, I weeded through it). The "problem" would seem to be that not enough voters see the smaller shows. But to fix that, publicists would likely be obliged to dole out free tickets to more of the membership, which for obvious reasons they are disinclined to do (they are usually happy to accommodate voters who find them, but you do have to look hard sometimes). A larger problem is getting a shrinking number of media outlets interested in the less glitzy, more gritty productions. There is no incentive for voters to see more of the smaller shows, and publicists to allow access to them, if the editorial gatekeepers aren't that interested. It's no conspiracy, or "conspiracy," that the Broadway shows win.

I am, however, satisfied that my nominating committee discharged its duties superbly. What am I to do with myself now? There are, of course, more shows to see; there are always shows to see. Oh, and that event in August...

[Pictured is the "Deskie"-winning musical, Passing Strange, with winner Stew, at home prepping for tonight's Obies, at the left, and nominee Daniel Breaker at the right.]

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