The Village Voice OBIE awards are always a raucous affair; a sort of debauched downtown theater raspberry to counter the Tonys' mainstream proceedings. And because the OBIEs call attention to risk-taking, less-famous artists who succeed despite severely limited budgets, they're arguably much more vital to the theater world—at least, the part of that world that consistently pushes the envelope. Last night's bacchanal—the 54th—at Webster Hall was even more festive than years' past because after the awards (see below) were handed out, the club was taken over by a risque, gender-bending after-party hosted by Michael Musto. Pole dancing, body painting and short shorts were wall-to-wall.

The award ceremony was emceed by Daniel Breaker (Passing Strange, Shrek) and Martha Plimpton, who made sure to thank Webster Hall for "hosting the OBIEs and also hosting me the night I lost my virginity and discovered what cocaine was." As the waitstaff kept the vodka gimlets coming to the podium, Plimpton also revealed that "my parents met and conceived me during the original run of Hair... back in 1982." (It was just three years later that she landed a starring role in Goonies!)

Stephen Sondheim picked up an award for his musical Road Show, the outstanding Chocolate Factory in Long Island City got a grant, and Anne Hathaway made an appearance to present the Lifetime Achievement Award to masterful actor Earle Hyman, who many remember as Heathcliff Huxtable's father on The Cosby Show, and theatergoers know as an estimable interpreter of classics. Accepting the award, Hyman said, "One of the great things we have in this country is the public library. I went there one day as a boy and discovered an entire section devoted to theater. And no one had checked anything out! So I said, this is mine." Later he praised the virtue of simplicity in acting, telling the crowd: "If you want to see true simplicity, see Brokeback Mountain and watch Anne Hathaway's telephone speech."

OBIE WINNERS 2008-09

Lifetime Achievement Award

Earle Hyman

Best New American Play (includes a cash prize of $1000)

RUINED by Lynn Nottage (Manhattan Theater Club)

Performance

Francois Battiste, THE GOOD NEGRO (Public Theater)

Quincy Tyler Bernstine, RUINED (Manhattan Theater Club)

Kevin T. Carroll, sustained excellence of performance

Saidah Arrika Ekulona, RUINED (Manhattan Theater Club)

Jonathan Groff, PRAYER FOR MY ENEMY (Playwrights Horizons) and THE SINGING FOREST (Public Theater)

Birgit Huppuch, TELEPHONE (Foundry Theatre)

Russell Gebert Jones, RUINED (Manhattan Theater Club)

Aaron Monaghan, THE CRIPPLE OF INISHMAAN (Atlantic Theater Co.)

Sahr Ngaujah, FELA! (37 Arts)

Lorenzo Pisoni, HUMOR ABUSE (Manhattan Theater Club)

James Sugg, CHEKHOV LIZARDBRAIN (Pig Iron Theatre Company)

John Douglas Thompson, OTHELLO (Theatre for a New Audience)

Music and Lyrics

Stephen Sondheim, ROAD SHOW (Public Theater)

Directing

David Cromer, OUR TOWN (Barrow Street Theatre)

Katie Mitchell, THE WAVES (National Theatre of Great Britain / Lincoln Center Great Performances “New Visions” Series)

Ken Rus Schmoll, TELEPHONE (Foundry Theatre)

Design

Toni-Leslie James, sustained excellence of costume design

(w/special reference to WIG OUT, Vineyard Theatre)

David Korins, sustained excellence of set design

(w/special reference to WHY TORTURE IS WRONG..., Public Theater)

Special Citations

Sarah Benson (director) and Louisa Thompson (set designer), BLASTED (Soho Rep)

David Esbjornson (director) and Christian Camargo (actor), HAMLET (Theatre for a New Audience)


The Ross Wetzsteon Award (includes a cash prize of $2000.)

HERE Arts Center

OBIE Grants ($10,000 divided equally among three theaters)

The Classical Theatre of Harlem

The Chocolate Factory

Lark Play Development Center