Lortel nominations led by ‘This Wide Night’ & ‘Other Desert Cities’

Nominations for the 26th annual edition of the Lucille Lortel Awards were announced Thursday. Two new works — “This Wide Night” and “Other Desert Cities” lead with five bids apiece. “Night,” written by Chloe Moss in 2008, is not contending for Best Play but did land a Best Actress bid for Edie Falco. “Cities” by Jon Robin Baitz was performed in the off-Broadway theater at Lincoln Center but will be remounted in the fall in a Broadway house. It is in the running for Best Play and earned nods for featured players Linda Lavin and Thomas Sadoski.

The Lortels are handed out in a range of categories. Some are akin to those at the Tony Awards, which salute the best of Broadway, such as Best Play and Best Musical. Among the musical nominees is “Bloody Bloody Andrew Jackson,” which was a smash hit at the Public Theater but had a short-lived rialto run last fall.

Rather than separate musical and play performances as do the Tonys, the Lortels lump them together. Most of this year’s nominees appeared in plays rather than musicals. The Lortels also do this with the various design and craft kudos. Joe Mantello picked up two helming bids for “Other Desert Cities” and “The Other Place.”

While the Tonys have dropped their catch-all award for special theatrical event, the Lortels continue to salute such efforts. The two solo shows in the running are “Mike Birbiglia’s My Girlfriend’s Boyfriend” and “Through the Night” by Daniel Beaty. And “Gatz,” which was staged at the Public Theater, was named Best Alternative Theater Experience.

These awards are also lauding Lynne Meadow, long-time leader of Manhattan Theater Club for her lifetime of achievement and legal eagle Gary Glaser for his service to the off-Broadway community.

Nominees will be feted at a reception on April 11 with the kudos being handed out during a May 1 ceremony co-hosted by Zach Braff and Samantha Bee at Gotham’s Skirball Center.

These kudos are presented by the Off-Broadway League, a collection of producers who stage shows in smaller venues than those on Broadway. A successful off-Broadway run can lead to a transfer to Broadway and a chance to contend at the Tony Awards. The Lucille Lortel Awards — named for the renowned actress turned producer — do what the Drama Desk Awards used to — celebrate the best of off-Broadway.

While the Tony Awards, which date to 1947, salute Broadway, the Drama Desk kudos were begun in 1955 to honor the rest of the New York theater world. And for the first 14 years they did just that with winners coming exclusively from the burgeoning off-Broadway scene. However, beginning with the 15th festivities in 1968, those appearing on Broadway became eligible for consideration and since then these awards have tilted towards those also competing at the Tonys, leaving the off-Broadway performers in the wings until the Lortels came along.

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