The winners of the 15th Annual Lucille Lortel Awards were announced April 4 by The League of Off-Broadway Theaters & Producers, and Dinner With Friends and James Joyce's The Dead are the major production honorees, for Outstanding Play and Outstanding Musical.
The awards, chosen by a panel of journalists, honor outstanding achievement in Off-Broadway theatres. Joy Behar and Jesse L. Martin will host the awards ceremony, May 1 at the Lucille Lortel Theatre (121 Christopher Street).
The Drama Dept.'s staging of The Torch-Bearers was named Outstanding Revival; Susan Stroman was named Outstanding Director for Lincoln Center Theater's Contact (which has moved to Broadway status); Boyd Gaines was named Outstanding Actor, for Contact; Eileen Heckart is Outstanding Actress for The Waverly Gallery.
Design honorees were Kenneth Posner, for his lighting of the Roundabout's Give Me Your Answer, Do! and Manhattan Theatre Club's The Wild Party; David Gallo, for his set design of MTC's The Wild Party; Martin Pakledinaz, for his costume designs for Waste and MTC's The Wild Party.
The octogenarian Eileen Heckart was given the award for Outstanding Body of Work. As previously announced, Jason Robards, whose legendary performances in the plays of Eugene O'Neill (playing roles in The Iceman Cometh, Long Day's Journey Into Night, Hughie, A Moon for the Misbegotten, A Touch of the Poet and Ah, Wilderness!) set a new standard, will be honored with the League's Lifetime Achievement Award.
On May 1, playwrights Charles Busch (Vampire Lesbians of Sodom, Red Scare on Sunset and the current Tale of the Allergist's Wife) and Israel Horovitz (Today I Am a Fountain Pen, Line, Indian Wants The Bronx) will receive stars on the Playwrights Sidewalk in front of the Lortel Theatre.
Named for the producer Lucille Lortel, a pioneer of Off-Broadway who embraced new and foreign writers, the award began in 1986.
The awards -- with no nominees, just honorees -- are selected by a committee of journalists, including Clive Barnes, Peter Filichia, John Heilpern, Charles Isherwood, Alvin Klein, Michael Kuchwara, Ken Mandelbaum, Emily Nunn, John Simon, Sam Whitehead, John Willis and Linda Winer.
Donald Margulies' Pulitzer-winning Dinner With Friends, at the Variety Arts, is considered one of the great Off-Broadway successes of recent years: A grown-up, four-character, rueful comedy about two couples and how friendships are tested when one couple breaks up. It had previous stagings at the Humana Festival (Actors Theatre of Louisville) and South Coast Repertory Theatre.
James Joyce's The Dead seemed like an unlikely musical theatre idea in an atmosphere of brassy pop spectacles, but audiences rushed to the short run in fall 1999 at Playwrights Horizons. The Richard Nelson- scripted and directed adaptation (with music by Shaun Davey) moved to Broadway's Belasco Theatre with its 1999 star, Christopher Walken, intact.