As nonprofit theater companies struggle through an open-ended shutdown, Playwrights Horizons got a double shot of validation from the New York Drama Critics’ Circle.
A Strange Loop, Michael R. Jackson’s confessional and quirky work about a black gay man’s struggle with guilt and rejection, was named best musical of the past season by the critics’ group.
Will Arbery’s Heroes of the Fourth Turning, about young idealistic conservatives in the age of Donald Trump, was named best play of 2019-20.
Both shows had their world premieres at Playwrights Horizons, a 49-year-old off-Broadway mainstay. The Circle’s top awards bypassed the abbreviated Broadway season, which included Moulin Rouge!, Jagged Little Pill, The Inheritance and My Name is Lucy Barton.
The Drama Critics’ Circle gave special citations to David Byrne’s hit concert American Utopia, which is scheduled to return to Broadway in the fall; to the actress Deirdre O’Connell, for career excellence (she most recently starred in Lucas Hnath’s Dana H. at the Vineyard Theatre); and to “the New York theater community for perseverance in the face of loss during the COVID-19 pandemic.”
Heroes of the Fourth Turning was directed by Danya Taymor. The best play award winner receives a cash prize of $2,500.
Strange Loop was directed by Stephen Brackett and enhanced — i.e. subsidized — by Broadway producer Barbara Whitman. It’s scheduled to have a second developmental production at Washington’s Woolly Mammoth Theatre in September. Wooly Mammoth is run by Maria Manuela Goyanes, a former top staffer at the Public Theater, which was the first home of Hamilton.
The New York Drama Critics’ Circle includes Broadway and off-Broadway in its annual deliberations. Earlier in the week, Strange Loop was nominated for seven Lucille Lortel Awards — an off-Broadway-only award — and Heroes of the Fourth Turning got six. The Lortels will be presented online on May 3. Tim Sanford, who’s stepping down next season after 25 years as Playwrights Horizons’ artistic director, is due to receive a Lortel for lifetime achievement.