New York Drama Critics’ Circle Names Downstate and Leopoldstadt Best Plays of the Season
The New York Drama Critics’ Circle convened this afternoon and selected Bruce Norris’s Downstate as the Best Play of the 2022-23 season.
Downstate is set in a group home for sex offenders in downstate Illinois. It made its New York debut at Playwrights Horizons. TheaterMania’s review stated “It powerfully reclaims the stage as a home for dangerous ideas, a place where the thoughts we would rather ignore confront us — not with startling moral clarity, but sublime doubt.”
The award comes hot on the heels of the announcement of the 2023 Pulitzer Prize for Drama, which went to Sanaz Toossi for her off-Broadway debut, English. The Circle honored Toossi last year with its second-ever Emerging Artist citation.
The New York Drama Critics’ Circle was founded in 1935, very much in response to the questionable taste of the Pulitzer board, which that year overlooked new works by Lillian Hellman, George S. Kaufman, and Clifford Odets to award its drama prize to the Zoë Akins melodrama The Old Maid. The following year, the Circle awarded its first prize to Maxwell Anderson’s Winterset. The selection of Downstate in 2023 is a notable rebuke in that tradition: The Pulitzer board did not even recognize Bruce Norris’s drama as a finalist for its 2018 world premiere at Chicago’s Steppenwolf Theater.
The Circle also voted to name Tom Stoppard’s Leopoldstadt Best Foreign Play. Leopoldstadt is about an extended Jewish family in Vienna living through a turbulent century. It is currently running at Broadway’s Longacre Theatre. You can read TheaterMania’s review here.
Special citations were awarded to the indispensable off-off-Broadway theater La MaMa, and the veteran playwright Adrienne Kennedy, who made her Broadway debut at the age of 91 with this season’s production of Ohio State Murders. Additionally, a third special citation was given to the Broadway revival of Parade.
The awards will be presented during a small ceremony on May 23.