Oscar-winner Faye Dunaway and celebrated playwright Melinda Lopez — representing two generations of artistry nurtured by the Boston theater community — stole the show at Monday night’s 37th Elliot Norton Awards.
The annual ceremony’s guest of honor, Dunaway reflected on her history with Boston, from years at Boston University to filming “The Thomas Crown Affair” locally. (Mayor Martin J. Walsh acknowledged these connections earlier in the day, proclaiming it Faye Dunaway Day.)
“[Boston] taught me everything I know, basically,” she said to those at the Huntington Avenue Theatre Monday night. Dunaway reflected on learning under Norton, the late, renowned Boston theater critic for whom the awards are named. She’ll soon settle back into Boston to play Katharine Hepburn in “Tea at Five,” a one-woman play from Matthew Lombardo at the Huntington next month.
Lopez, receiving The Norton Prize for Sustained Excellence, brought the crowd to their feet for the evening’s first standing ovation. In her speech, she joked about past slip-ups. The Huntington’s first-ever playwright-in-residence, whose translation of Federico García Lorca’s 1934 play “Yerma” will be presented later this month, recalled cracking up the cast of “Our Town” mid-performance at the Huntington in 2013. “[They fell] like dominoes,” she said. “When you break Stacey Fischer, well, you’ll get one of these.”
As it celebrated the wealth of performers and productions that made up Boston’s theater scene this past year, the Nortons, chosen by the Boston Theater Critics Association, spread its honors around Monday, spotlighting 23 separate offerings from 15 companies that ranged from fringe players to community bulwarks
The ceremony opened with a rousing rendition of “Wait for It” from “Hamilton” by Winchester native Nicholas Christopher. Christopher took home his own Nortie for playing Aaron Burr in the touring version of Lin-Manuel Miranda’s sung-and-rapped-through musical.
“In a world full of nos, I’d be remiss if I didn’t acknowledge all the yesses I got along the way,” said Christopher.
Broadway in Boston’s “Hamilton,” the Huntington Theatre Company’s “Man in the Ring,” Lyric Stage Company of Boston’s “The Wolves,” Bridge Repertory Theater’s “Dark Room,” SpeakEasy Stage Company’s “Between Riverside and Crazy” and “Once,” and “Dragon Mama” actress and playwright Sara Porkalob each earned two awards at the ceremony, with SpeakEasy leading the way with a total of five awards.
Prizes for best productions were split into three categories. The Huntington’s “Man in the Ring” — also a winning showcase for actor John Douglas Thompson — earned the honor for large theaters. Lyric Stage’s “The Wolves,” from director A. Nora Long (who won in her category), and SpeakEasy’s “Between Riverside and Crazy,” for which actor Tyrees Allen also won, tied for midsize theater, and Sleeping Weazel’s “The Audacity: Women Speak” triumphed in the small/fringe theater category.
Elsewhere, “The Black Clown,” from the American Repertory Theater, was named outstanding musical production.
Others recognized included musical actors Davron S. Monroe (for the Front Porch Arts Collective and Lyric Stage’s “Breath & Imagination”) and Mackenzie Lesser-Roy (for SpeakEasy’s “Once”).
Among visiting productions, “Measure By Measure” — an ArtsEmerson presentation from Moscow’s Pushkin Theatre and London’s Cheek by Jowl — received top honors, while “Hamilton” won for best musical.
While Christopher in “Hamilton’’ took home the award for best actor in a visiting musical, best actress in that category went to Ani Djirdjirian, who pulled quadruple duty to play all the female characters in the Huntington’s presentation of “Spamilton.” Onstage Monday night, she called the play “the ugly stepsister” to “Hamilton.”
The Zeitgeist Stage Company, which wrapped up its 18-year residency in Boston this season, received a special citation as well as a standing ovation for artistic director David J. Miller.
Other winners included actress Jennifer Rohn and director Olivia D’Ambrosio for Bridge Rep’s “Dark Room”; director Bryn Boice for Commonwealth Shakespeare Company’s “Universe Rushing Apart: Blue Kettle and Here We Go”; actor Ken Baltin for Gloucester Stage Company’s “My Station In Life”; actress Amanda Collins for Merrimack Repertory Theatre’s “Miss Bennet: Christmas at Pemberley”; actress Jordan Boatman for the Huntington’s “The Niceties”; and visiting performer Vaishnavi Sharma for “Bedlam’s Pygmalion,” presented by Underground Railway Theater.
Isaac Feldberg can be reached by email at firstname.lastname@example.org.