Martin was a director whose strong affinity for actors and appetite for creative challenges helped him build a distinguished career that ranged from Boston to Broadway, comedy to tragedy, and classics to experimental work.
An ebullient figure widely known as Nicky, Mr. Martin served as artistic director at two major theater companies: Boston's Huntington Theatre Company, where he was seen as a champion of local actors and playwrights during a tenure that lasted from 2000 to 2008, and Williamstown Theatre Festival, from 2008 to 2010.
Mr. Martin did not turn to directing until he was in his early 40s, after a lengthy stint as an actor. He was forthright about the drinking problem that bedeviled him in the 1970s. "I was unemployable by reputation, but I was still invited to parties," he told American Theatre magazine.
Mr. Martin enjoyed a major success in the 2012-2013 Broadway season, earning a Tony Award nomination for best direction for the Broadway production of Vanya and Sonia and Masha and Spike written by his frequent collaborator, Christopher Durang.
One of that production's stars, David Hyde Pierce, was among the numerous actors who visited Mr. Martin in his final hours. Others included Victor Garber, who starred in a 2007 Huntington production of Present Laughter that transferred to Broadway, and Brooks Ashmanskas, who starred in the musical She Loves Me Mr. Martin's first mainstage production at Williamstown in 2008 (which had also been his final production at the Huntington).
"He was an extremely talented director," Durang said Thursday in a telephone interview, recalling Mr. Martin's work on four of his plays, including an uproarious 2001 production of Betty's Summer Vacation at the Huntington. "And he was a great laugh. I love when there's laughter in a rehearsal. I write comedies that can be dark sometimes, but I like it when the director sets the tone and laughs a lot."
Under Mr. Martin's stewardship at the Huntington, the company founded the Huntington Playwriting Fellows program, which helps develop new work from promising local playwrights.