Critical Confabulations

a theatre, film & pop culture review

2013 Tony Awards Predictions: Best Featured Actor in a Play

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.

BEST PERFORMANCE BY AN ACTOR
IN A FEATURED ROLE IN A PLAY

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1. Billy Magnussen
VANYA AND SONIA AND MASH AND SPIKE

2. Richard Kind
THE BIG KNIFE

3. Courtney B. Vance
LUCKY GUY

Danny Burstein
GOLDEN BOY

Tony Shaloub
GOLDEN BOY


Missing
John C. McGinley, Glengarry Glen Ross; Michael Shannon, Grace

This is one of those categories that could go any number of ways, as there seems to be no real consensus. I missed out on Golden Boy, and was not really blown away by the other three, so it’s a tough one to call, personally.

There are some kind things to be said about Nora Ephron’s Lucky Guy, and one of them is its hardworking cast. Courtney B. Vance plays hotheaded editor Hap Hairston to Tom Hanks’s hotheaded reporter Mike McAlary, so there’s a lot of yelling, beer-swilling and pointed looks between them, and Vance manages to keep the passion in check, coming out as the most thoughtful and even-keeled. It’s a solid, competent performance, but it’s not flashy enough for the third-time nominee to be a first-time winner.

Of all the actors in The Big Knife, I’m genuinely surprised that Richard Kind is the one selected for nomination — does no one love Chip Zien like I do? As the thuggish studio exec trying to get his hot-ticket movie star to sign a 14-year contract, Kind shifts, subtly at first, from a obsequious buddy to a bellowing, hard-hitting Hollywood pusher, until in his last scenes, his agitation escalates and his rage spills forth into full-fledged, red-faced ranting. This pressurized altercation with Zien’s loyal agent finally injects some heat into an otherwise stolid production, but it’s not enough to earn the first-time nominee a Tony.

Of the two Golden Boy nominees, Tony Shaloub gives what many critics call a meticulously restrained, yet heartbreaking performance as an old-world Italian father of a boxer-son. Thrice-nominated but previously only for musicals — most recently as Buddy in last year’s Follies — Danny Burstein, as the son’s trainer, seems to be the preference of the pundits as of now. Voters who loved the show (and lots of folks really did) aren’t going to agree on a favorite between Shaloub and Burstein, which may cancel out both actors’ chances of winning this time around. But I think Burstein has generated enough good will to take this one home.

Sadly, no one thinks Billy Magnussen has a shot here for his portrayal of Spike, Sigourney Weaver’s buff, blonde boy-toy, in Christopher Durang’s Vanya and Sonia and Masha and Spike. With a puffed-up ego and pecs for days, Magnussen’s Spike hurdles across the stage half-naked (nearly always, and thankfully), oblivious of the confused disdain of Vanya and Sonia. Magnussen is hilariously vacant, as the incredibly gorgeous often are, with a super-inflated sense of self-worth (mentioned multiple times: He almost landed a part in Entourage 2!). But Magnussen, with his boundless energy and super-watt smile, manages to make Spike’s shallow brainlessness über-charming. Hey’s a joy to watch, but seemingly not enough of one to make the first-time nominee a first-time winner.

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2 comments on “2013 Tony Awards Predictions: Best Featured Actor in a Play

  1. Linda
    May 22, 2013

    No one thinks Billy Magnussen has a shot? That makes me sad. I’m glad you put him first. I think there is more to his performance than people realize and I don’t think anybody would have done what he did with the role, unlike the rest of these. I am starting to think Richard Kind might get it given all the love he’s been getting lately, but I don’t think he deserves it for this performance. For me, it’s between Tony Shaloub and Magnussen and I have a feeling I’ll be disappointed come Tony night.

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  2. Julie
    May 24, 2013

    I just haven’t heard anyone talking about Magnussen, but I keep hearing Kind and the Golden Boys. I’m glad you liked Shaloub; I really wish I had seen the show so I could better judge here, but alas… this one’s a total crapshoot. I’ll only be happy if Magnussen wins; the other two performances I saw simply weren’t exceptional.

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