Critical Confabulations

a theatre, film & pop culture review

2014 Tony Awards Predictions: Best Direction of 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 DIRECTOR OF A PLAY

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1. MICHAEL GRANDAGE
The Cripple of Inishmaan

2. JOHN TIFFANY
The Glass Menagerie

TIM CARROLL
Twelfth Night

KENNY LEON
A Raisin in the Sun

Should’ve been here: Lyndsey Turner, Machinal

A Raisin in the Sun marks Kenny Leon’s second nomination (he was previously nominated for Fences, also starring Denzel Washington), but it won’t be his first win. I didn’t see it (sigh), nor did I see the Broadway incarnation of Twelfth Night, but I can still say with near certainty that Tim Carroll will win his first Tony for his ecstatically reviewed production.

If anyone has a chance to best Carroll, though, it’d be John Tiffany. A previous winner for Once, Tiffany took the idea of a “memory play” and ran with it for his production of Tennessee Williams’s The Glass Menagerie. Rallying a design by Bob Crowley consisting of platforms hovering over gleaming pools of black water and a spiral staircase ascending infinitely into a void, and layering on stylized, fluid movement by Steven Hoggett (nominated this season for Rocky), his excellent cast seemed to float somewhere between harsh reality and dreamy abstraction. Aesthetically, it was an elegant, transfixing choice, and were the backwards movements and swirling hand gestures more fully integrated in the production, it may not have seemed so affected. As it was (and I know I’m going to get hate-comments for this), it all felt a little pretentious. Luckily for Tiffany, my vote counts for naught, and despite all, I very much enjoyed the production. Surely Carroll and Tiffany are neck and neck for this one, but ultimately it’ll go to the production that puts Mark Rylance in a dress (let’s be real).

But I’d rather share a pint and a yarn with the uproarious cast of Martin McDonagh’s The Cripple of Inishmaan, helmed by Michael Grandage. This isn’t, what at the time seemed, near-perfect Druid Theatre Company’s production that came through New York in 2008. That production skewed dark and gritty, with softer edges. Grandage, on the other hand, has an eye and ear for the comedy, and he bites into it, hard, keeping the pace brisk and the jokes cutting with zero allusions to sentiment. McDonagh offers up every Irish stereotype you can think of (names like Bobbybabbybobby, foul language, alcoholism, meddling aunts), and Grandage delights in sending them up, one by one, whilst floating flute music throughout as the characters mercilessly, and hilariously, dig into one another. Guiding a near-pitch perfect cast as a cohesive unit, Grandage proves that a less-substantial (McDonagh) play doesn’t have to mean a less enjoyable one.

 

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