Helen Hayes Awards hosted by Tyne Daly

Nicky Silver earns ''New Play'' award and audience's laughter

The Helen Hayes, Washington’s theatre awards, were handed out in a gala ceremony this past Monday, May 9, at the Warner Theatre. The ceremony itself seemed a little staid, lacking the sparkle of previous years—but then, what else can you expect when your big musical number is The Hostess With The Mostest At the Ball from “Call Me, Madame” sung by the tonally challenged Tyne Daly?

Nonetheless the presentation and the raucous party that followed at the J.W. Marriott was fully enjoyable. Celebrity watchers were not disappointed and the glitzy list included Jane Alexander (honored with the American Express Tribute), Stacy Keach, Richard Thomas, Eli Wallach and the towering Mercedes Ruehl.

The evening’s most entertaining moments came, oddly enough, in the acceptance speeches. Accepting his award for Outstanding Supporting Performer in a Non-Resident Play or Musical, “The Kentucky Cycle’s” Jacob (Tuck) Milligan, clearly dazed from the win, said: “I’d like to thank every member of the cast—the least of which is Stacy Keach.” Tuck quickly amended his faux pas.

“3 Hotels” producer Ron Kastner, accepting the Outstanding Director award for Joe Mantello (who is currently starring on Broadway in “Angels in America”), said “Well, I’m sure he would have thanked me.”

With his long hair flip and frilly Victorian shirt, the lanky Reggie Ray resembled a black Twiggy. Ray won for Outstanding Costume Design for his stunning work on Studio Theatre’s “Spunk.”

Playwright Nicky Silver, whose “Free Will and Wanton Lust” nabbed the Charles MacArthur Award for Outstanding New Play, stole the evening with a series of sarcastically glib, uproarious remarks.

“I was so very moved by the opening slide montage tour of the District,” he said, referring to the show’s lovely if mundane opening multimedia presentation. In acknowledging fellow “Free Will” nominees Jason Kravitz and Naomi Jacobson, both of whom had lost earlier in the evening, the outspoken Silver did not mince words.

“I’d like to thank Jason Kravitz, who was screwed tonight… and Naomi Jacobson, who was also screwed,” he said.

The giddy Silver made such a favorable impression on the audience that Mistress of Ceremonies, the chronically-ebullient Pat Carroll chuckled “I wish I had that kid’s act.”

And speaking of Carroll, the actress took home yet another award (her third), for her bracing portrayal of the title role in Michael Kahn’s production of Bertolt Brecht’s “Mother Courage and her Children.” (Kahn won for Outstanding director.) This is the third time the three-time nominee has won for her work—leading us to wonder if theatres seeking a Helen Hayes for their lobby case ought not hire Ms. Carroll away from The Shakespeare Theatre.

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