While 13 new works are eligible for this year’s Tony Awards, only four will reap bids for Best Play.
Of the eight shows that opened already this seasons, the clear frontrunner is â€œVanya and Sonia and Masha and Spike,â€ a roaring comedy with a healthy dash of sentiment and a nod to Chekhov, written by Tony nominee Christopher Durang. The production features an all-star cast of frequent Durang collaborators including Oscar and Tony nominee Sigourney Weaver, four-time Emmy Award champ and Tony winner David Hyde-Pierce (â€œFrasier,â€ â€œCurtainsâ€) and Broadway veteran Kristine Nielsen. Reviews were stellar across-the-board for this recent transfer to Broadway from Lincoln Center.
Of the seven other plays to date, three of them shuttered so quickly it is extremely unlikely that they will merit consideration. Would-be comedy “The Performers,â€ which starred TV’s Henry Winkler (“Happy Days”), ran a dismal six performances while the family drama â€œDead Accounts,â€ eked out only 44 performances despite the presence of two-time Tony champ Norbert Leo Butz and Katie Holmes. The biggest disappointment of this trio was â€œThe Anarchist” by Pulitzer-prize winner David Mamet (â€œGlengarry Glen Rossâ€). This two-hander starred two-time Tony champ Patti LuPone (â€œEvita,â€ â€œGypsyâ€) and three-time Oscar nominee Debra Winger as a prisoner and her parole officer but managed only 17 performances.
The other two productions that have closed could be respectable nominees in the category should the offerings this spring fall flat with critics.
â€œGraceâ€ comes from a writer-director team making their Broadway debut. TV scribe Craig Wright (“Six Feet Under,” “Brothers & Sisters”) wrote a story about life and death struggles and crises of faith while Dexter Bullard directed a starry cast comprising of Paul Rudd, Michael Shannon, Kate Arrington and seven-time Emmy Award victor Edward Asner (â€œThe Mary Tyler Moore Show,â€ â€œLou Grantâ€). However, a short run, only mildly enthusiastic reviews, and an early closing date could work against it. .
The second of the successful fall productions was â€œThe Other Place,â€ by Sharr White, making his Broadway debut, and directed by two-time Tony winner and six-time nominee Joe Mantello (â€œTake Me Out,â€ â€œAssassinsâ€). The show was lauded for its captivating story and an awe-inspiring performance from three-time Emmy champion and Tony nominee Laurie Metcalf (â€œRoseanneâ€) as a scientist who may have discovered a cure for dementia.
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The first of three one-woman shows this season has opened already: â€œAnn,â€ a snapshot of the life of Ann Richards, the late governor of Texas, written by and starring Emmy Award winner Holland Taylor (â€œThe Practiceâ€). While Taylorâ€™s performance received excellent reviews and she could contend, the play has been dismissed as a star vehicle.
A production that is currently running yet will be forgotten is the theatrical debut of â€œBreakfast At Tiffanyâ€™s.â€ Tony-winning playwright Richard Greenberg (â€œTake Me Outâ€) adaptated Truman Capote novella of the same name, and Tony nominee Sean Mathias directed. Despite the popularity of the property, this production has been critically derided as uninspired and lifeless, and could post a closing notice before the Tony nominations are announced May 2. In such a crowded year, do not expect to see Holly Golightly contending for the top prize.
However, Greenberg should not be written off this Tony Award season as he has another show in contention: Manhattan Theatre Clubâ€™s â€œThe Assembled Parties.â€ Directed by frequent MTC collaborator Lynne Meadow, this boasts a stellar cast including last yearâ€™s Tony winner for Featured Play Actress Judith Light (â€œOther Desert Citiesâ€), and Tony nominees Jessica Hecht and Jeremy Shamos. Although the play hasnâ€™t opened yet, word of mouth is positive, and plays into the trope of ruptured family dynamics that dominated this category last year with winner â€œClybourne Parkâ€ and â€œOther Desert Cities.â€
Two plays in previews feature heavyweights on both sides of the stage lights.
“Lucky Guy” was written by the late Nora Ephron, a three-time Oscar nominee, and stars two-time Oscar champ Tom Hanks (â€œPhiladelphia,â€ â€œForrest Gumpâ€) in his Broadway debut as newspaper columnist Mike McAlary. Two-time Tony winner and nine-time nominee George C. Wolfe (â€œBring In â€˜da Noise, Bring in â€˜da Funk,â€ â€œAngels in America: Millennium Approachesâ€) directs this limited run which co-stars Emmy nominee Maura Tierney (“ER”) and opens on April 1.
Two-time Tony winner Nathan Lane (â€œA Funny Thing Happened on the Way to the Forum,â€ â€œThe Producersâ€) headlines â€œThe Nance,â€ written by Tony nominee Douglas Carter Beane, who could also find himself contending for the revised libretto of â€œCinderella.â€ Joining Lane in this bittersweet comedy about a closeted 1930s vaudevillian is Cady Huffman, who won a Tony for her work opposite Lane in â€œThe Producers.â€ Three-time Tony victor and ten-time nominee Jack Oâ€™Brien (â€œThe Coast of Utopia,â€ â€œHenry IV,â€ â€œHairsprayâ€) directs this LCT production which opens April 15.
â€œThe Testament of Mary” just started previews prior to an April 22 opening. Colm TÃ³ibÃn expanded the monologue he wrote for Tony champ Marie Mullen (“Beauty Queen of Leenane”) for a Dublin theater festival in 2011 into a novella. In turn, he adapted that into a longer piece for Olivier Award winner and Tony nominee Fiona Shaw (â€œMachinalâ€). She plays the Virgin Mary who reflects on the death of her son, Jesus Christ.
â€œIâ€™ll Eat You Last: A Chat With Sue Mengers,” the final show of the season, marks the returns to the rialto of two-time Oscar nominee and Grammy and Emmy winner Bette Midler after an absence of more than four decades. Tony champ John Logan (â€œRedâ€) has written a one-woman show about the mercurial Mengers who coined the term “superagent” in the 1970s. With Mantello helming, the pedigree of this production is promising. Of the three one-woman shows, this has the best chance at nabbing a nomination given the caliber of the cast and creative team. However, the limited run could keep it from contending as voters may not deem it necessary to give this high profile entry a boost. Like Richards, Midler will be a formidable force in the competitive Best Play Actress race.