Kiki and Herb—the hilariously demented cabaret hags portrayed by Justin Bond and Kenny Mellman—drunkenly said they were delighted to be performing at the Tonys, but it was definitely the Obies they were playing at. You know, the Obies, where people get awards for their “lush and haunting meditation on displacement.” Where only one cell phone went off (during remarks about Sarajevo and art in Crown Heights). Where the plays honored are so fucking obscure that even I, who go to the theater 18 times a week, have never heard of them—which is a sign that true insiders with a keen eye for discovery are in inspiring command of these prize plaques!
As In the Blood‘s Charlayne Woodard told me beforehand, “I think the Obies are real hip and telling”—and, even better, they’re cruelty-free. No one wins one over someone else. They win one over everyone else.
The Webster Hall event—the 45th Obies—mixed it all up, with avant-gardists coming across Broadway types ogling movie stars colliding with their tormentors. (I saw William H. Macy politely excuse himself from one overeager fan at the bar.) As the crowd mingled and buzzed, there was commentary (Marilyn Sokol: “I feel sorry for Giuliani. He’s living his life!”), shmoozing (Arthur Laurents on seeing Eileen Heckart: “Hecky!”), and fighting over bread twists and water. Our cohosts were Claudia Shear, who slipped and called the award an “Oh-boy!” and Mary Testa, filling in for Patrick Stewart, who had voice problems, no doubt from yelling at the Shuberts.
Sure enough, Woodard won an award—how hip and telling—and seemed surprised. (“She didn’t know?” said someone behind me, as her friend responded, “She knew.”) Mark Dendy won for choreographing The Wild Party 1 and said he likes the Voice because “even when it’s a bad review, it’s as though they’re sitting across the table telling it to you.” Gertrude and Alice‘s Lola Pashalinski thanked her partner, Linda Chapman, for “pussy-whipping” her, and added, “As Jim Nicola knows, I can’t get enough pussy.” (And that’s the only thing she has in common with Giuliani—though I guess they’re both living their lives.)
Letters From Cuba author Maria Irene Fornes said she was thrilled to get an “Ober.” (No, dear, it’s an Oh-boy!) Other winners were delighted, stunned, speechless, un-shut-up-able, or absent. One was announced to be in Hollywood, but when someone corrected, “No, he’s not in Hollywood, he’s in Germany,” that got applause.
Presenter Carmelita Tropicana looked longingly at Amy Sedaris and said, “Blond, lovely, straight—two out of three ain’t bad.” Finally, Ping Chong nabbed Sustained Achievement and got $1000. “This is the greatest honor I can imagine,” gushed Chong. That is correct, sir. Now Hecky, hand over some of those bread twists!
The Jet Lag Crew
Edward Hibbert & Kristine Nielsen
Co-Host Mary Testa & The Public Theater’s Tom Naro
Circus Amok’s Jennifer Miller with Lola Rock ‘N’ Rolla
Ben & Susan Katchor: Comic Appeal
Kenny Mellman (left), Justin Bond & Co-Host Claudia Shear
Presenters Amy Sedaris, William H. Macy, Felicity Huffman & Peckish Celebrity Hand
James Urbaniak & Julie Anderson
Hanne Tierney & Basil Twist
Jitney’s Paul Butler
Florencia Lozano & Christopher Evan Welch
Viola Davis & Frances Sternhagen
Spin City: Bomb-Itty’s DJ J.A.Q.
Lola Pashalinski & The Foundry’s Melanie Joseph
Bill Talen & Sustained Achievement Winner Ping Chong
Complete Coverage of the 45th Annual Village Voice OBIE Awards
View the List of Winners
Waves of Faves compiled by Alexis Soloski
Thirty-Three New York Theater Types Offer Up Their Favorite Productions From the 1999–2000 Season
Hamlet, Vegas, and a Big Black Box by Charles McNulty
On the occasion of the 45th Obie Awards, the Voice’s Charles McNulty sat down with four theater directors—Graciela Daniele, Brian Kulick, Marianne Weems, and Evan Yionoulis—to hash out the state of their art here at the start of the 21st century