a theatre, film & pop culture review
Note: My personal rankings are listed in order from best to worst, with #1 being my favorite, while predictions for the actual winners will be in orange.
I honestly have no idea on this one. I would predict Judith Light, but she won just last year for Other Desert Cities. Can she win again? Yes. In The Assembled Parties, Light plays Faye, the neurotic, grudge-loving Jewish matron, with delectable relish. Light, in that impossibly infectious way of hers, makes Faye’s constant kvetching hilariously endearing, but also manages, in a moving speech about her mother’s devastating preference for her sister-in-law, to be quietly heartbreaking without any histrionics. It’s a typically spot-on performance for Light, but it’s also not all that dissimilar to her Tony Award-winning role, and voters may consider that when casting their ballots. But more than likely, they’ll be happy to give her the award for the second year in a row.
Also nominated last year, for her first Broadway role in Lydia Diamond’s Stick Fly, Condola Rashad, who also won a Theatre World Award for her work in Lynn Nottage’s Ruined, has fast become an actress to watch. As Thelma, a young army bride in Horton Foote’s The Trip to Bountiful, Rashad gives a sweet, low-key performance that perfectly balances Cicely Tyson’s more virtuoso portrayal. But the acting accolades for Bountiful will likely stay with Ms. Tyson only.
Shalita Grant‘s nomination for Christopher Durang’s Vanya and Sonia and Masha and Spike is the surprise here, and as such, she’s an unlikely winner. As Cassandra, the voodoo-practicing housekeeper with Greek-drama-inflected premonitions, Grant steals just about every scene she’s in with head-shuddering omens and supernatural swagger. But with the smallest role in a play full of more highly-acclaimed performances, Grant should just be thrilled to be invited to the party.
And then there were two: It comes down to my personal favorite and the stage veteran who I’m giving the edge to. As Honey, the insipid wisp-of-a-wife who was pregnant and then — POOF! — was not in Edward Albee’s Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf?, Carrie Coon is the tipsy and tittering scene-stealer, giddily drowning herself in Brandy. Sodden and swaying, her eyes shrinking to sharp slits, Coon mapped an astonishing and hilarious physical progression from silly-cognizance to sloshy-sickness. Has there been another production of Woolf when the role of the insipid Honey has been more deliciously entertaining? I seriously doubt it.
Maybe I should give Tony voters more credit, but I doubt many of them will go for Coon. Judith Ivey‘s turn as the biddyish aunt to Jessica Chastain’s plain-Jane heiress in Ruth and Augustus Goetz’s The Heiress has more of a chance. Injecting much-needed spirit and humor to an otherwise dour production, Ivey was charming, if a bit over-the-top in her efforts to liven the whole enterprise. But this is her first Broadway role in over ten years, and she hasn’t won a Tony since 1985’s Hurlyburly, so if voters’ memories can reach as far back as late fall/early winter (you may laugh, but that would necessitate a longer-term memory than most voters possess), there’s a chance they’ll award Ivey, though that’d be pretty remarkable.