“Creativity is not a competition,” host Ruben Santiago-Hudson announced at the outset of Monday’s 47th annual Obie awards—which boast no nominations, no ruthless campaigning, no hard feelings. Daniel Aukin, winner of a directing laurel for [sic], proclaimed the ceremony “glamorous,” but a truly glitter-addled crowd wouldn’t have spanned sartorial choices that ranged from playwright Suzan-Lori Parks’s dungarees to presenter Mary-Louise Parker’s trenchcoat-over-floodpants ensemble to Maria del Bosco‘s Juliana Francis in gloves and plunging neckline to Martha Plimpton in a platinum Marilyn coif. (She accepted her Hobson’s Choice citation from her godmother, co-host Karen Kandel.) The closest the Obies came to your garden-variety awards fete was in the sweetly breathless cohesion of the speeches. Most popular nouns: journey, gift, brilliance, and thrill; top two adjectives: brilliant and thrilling. Shortest speech, courtesy of lighting designer Kevin Adams, in its entirety: “It’s thrilling. Thank you.”
The most verbose of those who ascended the Webster Hall podium was, unsurprisingly, Homebody/Kabul scribe Tony Kushner (“Thank you for giving me an Obie for the whole play, not just the first act”), while the biggest star also delivered the most sizable oration: Topdog/ Underdog‘s Jeffrey Wright rambled endearingly about a trip to Sierra Leone and his seven-month-old while rubbing his shaved head meditatively. Topdog‘s multiple prizes spun a dizzy circle: After director George C. Wolfe gave Wright his plaque, he nabbed one from playwright and presenter Suzan-Lori Parks. Natty, quippy Wolfe also accepted on behalf of the ageless legend he directed in Elaine Stritch at Liberty, and kindly compensated for her absence by citing his favorite Stritchism: “What?! I can’t hear you, I’m yelling!” Apropos of little, Drummer Wanted set designer Angela Moore—decked out in hoodie and floor-length gown—gave a shout-out to her brother for stealing her Pantera and Slayer CDs; eponymous Monster Christopher Donahue expressed his gratitude to “the entire cast, almost all of whom I killed, every night.”
A running motif was erstwhile small-town kids reminiscing about how they used to beg, borrow, and steal this very paper; Metamorphoses director Mary Zimmerman’s speech (read by actor Kyle Hall) invoked the nightmare headline “Midwesterners Attempt Play.” Kicking off the trend was In On It playwright Daniel MacIvor, who said he used to purchase one of two copies of the Voice available each week at Big Ben’s Newsstand in Sydney, Nova Scotia. (The other consumer was “Ron, the Gay Guy—there was only one.”) According to MacIvor, a friend told him that “going to the Obies is like going to someone else’s bar mitzvah—[but] it isn’t, so thank you for the nice bar mitzvah.” Mazel tov.