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New York Awards 2003

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Kevin Kline
He seems to have been born to crack us up. Maybe it’s Kevin Kline’s flourish with a sword or the wiggle of his butt: We’ll never forget his pratfalling Pirate King in The Pirates of Penzance or the high-school teacher on the verge of coming out who can’t resist a disco beat in In & Out. We could go on. And yet we also recall him as Meryl Streep’s Holocaust-obsessed lover in Sophie’s Choice; his contemplative Hamlet; his depressed Connecticut squire in The Ice Storm; his vain Trigorin in The Seagull (again opposite La Streep). Since graduating from Juilliard into John Houseman’s Acting Company in 1972, he has personified the quintessential character actor in a leading man’s body: He is Ray Bolger and Laurence Olivier. For years he was a mainstay of both Joe Papp’s New York Shakespeare Festival and Lawrence Kasdan’s Big Chill–Silverado–Grand Canyon troupe, succeeding at what’s been a daunting challenge for most American stars: to have a life both onscreen and in the theater, in Hollywood and in New York—and to do it as a citizen of this city. And now we have him as the fat knight in Lincoln Center Theater’s lauded production of Henry IV. Looking like Thomas Nast’s Santa on a bender, Kline offers a Falstaff outsize yet human: Few moments in memory compare in poignance with his stunning collapse after his erstwhile comrade in mayhem, Prince Hal, just crowned King Henry V, turns on him in the street and pronounces, “I know thee not, old man.” For how well, in fact, Hal knows this man—as do we the actor inside the fat suit, always game for the next challenge, ever true to the art that is his purpose and our pleasure. —JEREMY GERARD


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