By Patrick Christiano
The Drama League honored film and theater star Alfred Molina with their coveted Distinguished Performance Award for his “dazzling portrayal of the artist Mark Rothko” in the acclaimed Broadway production of RED. Molina’s work was selected over 60 outstanding performances nominated from the 2009/2010 season. Accepting his award at the 76th annual luncheon from past recipient Liev Schreiber Molina said, “This is so fantastic I can’t tell you. I’m Italian, I’m going to cry.” He followed with a story in a very proper English accent about his wife reading the list of illustrious nominees and telling him if he wins ‘Don’t go English’ and suddenly pumped his arm with a clinched fist and said “YES!”
President Jano Herbosch delivered the opening remarks at the event co- hosted by Vanessa Williams and Michael Urie (both distinguished performance nominees) in the Broadway Ballroom of the Marriott Marquis Hotel. After hearing a few words from some of the nominees, Broadway diva Betty Buckley presented unique contribution to the Theatre to the Macy’s Parade and Entertainment Group followed by the introduction of more of the nominees.
Then international film star Denzel Washington, who is currently appearing on Broadway in Fences, bestowed the Julia Hansen Award for excellence in directing to his Fences director Kenny Leon. “Let my heart talk to you,” he said “we are all human beings… Fences is a reflection of the great man August Wilson.” He concluded with “I have a t-shirt that says ‘Film is art, Theater is life, and TV is furniture.”
A highlight of the afternoon followed, when Nathan Lane accepted his award for Distinguished Achievement in Musical Theatre from the great director Jerry Saks, who was responsible for fine tuning the current Broadway hit The Addams Family. That show’s gifted star quipped, “This is the best Drama League Luncheon I have ever been too…and the good news is people in America don’t like to read” referring to the drubbing The Addams Family received from much of the press. He went on, “This is my 17th Broadway show…Good luck to you at the Tonys or as they call it at my house Passover.” The popular actor is, however, nominated for a Drama Desk Award which will be presented Sunday May 23, so who knows he may find himself in the winner’s circle again. His performance in The Addams Family is stupendous.
Viola Davis, a front runner to take home the Tony award for her shattering performance in Fences, presented John Logan’s bio-play, RED about the abstract impressionist artist Rothko, with the award for best new play of the season over an impressive list of nominees that included: Playwrights Horizons’ Clybourne Park, a British import The Pride, the Public Theater’s The Brother/Sister Plays, NYT Workshop’s Aftermath, the classic Stage Company’s Venus in Fur, and Geoffrey Nauffts’s gay romantic comedy Next Fall, which this season transferred from Off-Broadway to Broadway’s Helen Hayes Theatre.
Distinguished revival of a play was presented to A VIEW FROM THE BRIDGE by a rather shy Christopher Walken and Sean Hayes presented the British import of LA CAGE AUX FOLLIES with the award for best revival of a musical. Best production of a musical went to SONDHEIM ON SONDHEIM, a surprise winner over Memphis, American Idiot, Kander & Ebb’s The Scottsboro Boys (which will be moving to Broadway next season), the Public’s Bloody Bloody Andrew Jackson, St. Ann’s Warehouse’s Brief Encounter, and Broadway productions of The Addams Family, Come Fly Away and Million Dollar Quarter.
John Douglas Thompson, a distinguished performance nominee and a Drama Desk nominee for his riveting portray of The Emperor Jones in the Off-Broadway revival of Eugene O’Niell’s political drama, summed up the feel of the afternoon when he shared about his nomination saying “…to be in the theater is to be transformed…I feel it is a privilege to do what you love and be acknowledged.”
Photography: Barry Gordin