N.Y. crix leave no doubt

Shanley play on fire with Critics Circle

NEW YORK — John Patrick Shanley’s “Doubt” added further certainty to its awards season momentum Wednesday, when it was honored as best play of the 2004-05 legit season by the New York Drama Critics Circle.

Carrying a cash prize of $2,500, the 69th annual award from the most prestigious of Gotham’s theater critics groups follows the play’s strong showing in the Tony nominations announced Tuesday. It landed mentions for best play, director Doug Hughes, lead actor Brian F. O’Byrne, actress Cherry Jones and featured actresses Heather Goldenhersh and Adriane Lenox, as well as sets and lighting.

Story of a morally rigid nun in a 1950s Bronx convent school who conducts a personal witch hunt against a priest was produced by Carole Shorenstein Hays and Manhattan Theater Club, which originally staged the production Off Broadway before it transferred with the original cast intact to the Walter Kerr on Broadway.

Shanley’s play was awarded the Pulitzer Prize for drama last month.

The Critics Circle bestowed a foreign play award of $1,000 to Anglo-Irish playwright Martin McDonagh’s “The Pillowman,” a Kafkaesque black comedy-drama about a writer suspected of gruesome child murders who’s being interrogated by police in a totalitarian state.

With six Tony noms, McDonagh’s play represents the chief rival to “Doubt” for the Broadway community’s top awards. In addition to play, it scored noms for director John Crowley, actor Billy Crudup, featured actor Michael Stuhlbarg, sets and lighting. The production originated, with a British cast, at London’s National Theater.

Other plays that drew support in the critics’ voting included Michael Frayn’s “Democracy” and Caryl Churchill’s “A Number.” Despite considerable support among the org’s 21 members for Adam Guettel and Craig Lucas’ “The Light in the Piazza,” the Critics Circle voted not to award its optional prize for musical this year.

The awards will be presented May 24 at a reception at the Algonquin Hotel. Star Ledger critic Michael Sommers presides this year over the New York Drama Critics Circle, founded in 1935. The awards are open to both Broadway and Off Broadway productions.