Critical Confabulations

a theatre, film & pop culture review

2014 Tony Awards Predictions: Best Featured Actress 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 A FEATURED ACTRESS IN A PLAY

celia-keenan-bolger_450

1. CELIA KEENAN-BOLGER
The Glass Menagerie

2. MARE WINNINGHAM
Casa Valentina

3. SARAH GREENE
The Cripple of Inishmaan

ANIKA NONI ROSE
A Raisin in the Sun

SOPHIE OKONEDO
A Raisin in the Sun

Shoulda been here: Gillian Hanna, The Cripple of Inishmaan; Ingrid Craigie, The Cripple of Inishmaan

I don’t know anyone who actually saw A Raisin in the Sun because it’s flat-out impossible to get tickets to, and needless to say, I didn’t see it. That being said, neither Anika Noni Rose, the only previous Tony winner (for Caroline, or Change in 2004) who plays Beneatha Younger, nor Sophie Okonedo, in her Broadway debut as Ruth Younger, have much of a shot here. [Fun fact: Best Actress in a Lead Role in a Play nominee Audra McDonald won the Tony for her performance in the 2004 production of Raisin.]

Sarah Greene has even less of a chance at winning for her performance in Martin McDonagh’s The Cripple of Inishmaan. In her Broadway debut, Greene’s Helen McCormick — the fiery redhead Daniel Radcliffe’s titular cripple is smitten with — is humorously saucy and mean-spirited, but her spiky demeanor never softens — and it needs to, even if just the tiniest bit. There should be a visible fondness for Billy the Cripple, no matter how hard she tries to hide it, and Greene never really warms up to him. What’s more, in a cast of superb performances — especially the hilarious Gillian Hanna and Ingrid Craigie as Billy’s overprotective aunties (who have their own adorable Twitter account) — it’s odd that Greene is the nominee.

To think that Casa Valentina marks only the second Broadway performance by Mare Winngham is rather astonishing. It feels like this fantastic actress is everywhere in everything, being fabulous, always (Tribes being a recent favorite). Not so, but she should be. As the wife of a cross-dressing husband who owns a resort catering to men with the same proclivity, Winningham’s Rita is shockingly supportive. But as easygoing and accommodating as her Rita is — with her tender nurturing of a scared young man and her admirable patience with a husband who consistently takes her love for granted — she has her limit. The fact that it’s not a hard break marked by screams or sobs or accusations, but a soft one, full of quiet wonder as she questions her life with her husband, makes her subtle, warm performance all the more remarkable.

But subtlety rarely a Tony wins, especially in the featured category which usually operates under the motto of the sassier and brassier, the better. That would bode well for Sarah Greene, but every once in awhile this category leans to the more tragic figures, and Laura Wingfield is one such heroine. As played by Celia Keenan-Bolger in her third Tony-nominated performance, the pathologically shy and mentally fragile Laura retreats further and further into herself as her mother and brother busy about her, but opens up, wondrously, when her Gentleman Caller engages her. Playing the crippled outcast, Keenan-Bolger, who usually graces the stage in musicals, tones down her natural spunkiness to imperceptible levels, disappearing as quietly into the role as Laura disappears into herself. It’s a lovely performance, if not the standout in a strong production, and it should win her the award.

 

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