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Posts tagged ‘Reed Birney’

Will Drama Desk Winners Repeat at the TONYs?

Jessica & Cynthia 1Will Drama Desk Winners repeat their triumphs at the TONYS? Probably. This year, especially. I think so. Above are pictured the two Best Actress winners. Jessica Lange for “Long Day’s Journey Into Night” and British newcomer Cynthia Erivo who is starring in “The Color People.” Lange won for Best Actress in a play and Erivo won for Best Actress in a Musical. I think these two ladies are Won and Done. At the Tonys.

Also poised to repeat at the TONYs are their two male counterparts in Drama Desk triumph Danny Burstein in “Fiddler on the Roof” and Frank Langella in the French play about an Alzheimer’s victim “The Father.”

I think all four of these powerhouse thespians can rest assured the Tony Voters will like them, really like them,too. The Tony Voters  do look increasingly to the Drama Desk winners to narrow their playing field, as it were.

This year, though, the theatrical phenom “Hamilton” is nominated for more TONYs than any other production in Broadway history. But in these four leading categories I don’t think it will register as it is likely to do in others. “Hamilton” won nearly every award in the book LAST year when it was eligible for the Drama Desks(and also the Outer Critics Circle and the Obies) because it played Off Broadway first at its’ historic run at the Public that launched it to Broadway.

And although two of its’ leading men author/actor Lin Manuel Miranda and Leslie Odon are both nominated for Best Actor in a Musical, I think they will cancel each other out, leaving the way for the popular veteran Danny Burstein to triumph for his joyous Tevye in “Fiddler.”

In other news, I think juggernaut “Hamilton” may find itself stopped at the TONYS. Although it was nominated for a historic 16 awards, I think it’s going to register much, much less than that.

The only acting award I think is a surefire win for “Hamilton” is the charming young African-American actress Renee Elise Goldsberry, who won the Drama Desk last year for Best Featured(or Supporting) Actress in a Musical.Renee Rlise Goldsberry 1

And on the Drama side, the powerful performance of veteran Jayne Howdeyshell from the Best Play Drama Desk winner “The Humans” could score in Supporting, which is where the TONYS put her and co-star Reed Birney, although they are both leads. “The Humans” also won for Best Ensemble at the Drama Desks, a special category that the DDs always give, but the TONYs do not.Jayne Houdyshell Humans 1

“Hamilton” will win Best Musical for sure. But the TONY voters are notorious for spreading the wealth around, and I think they will do that this year, too, in spite of “Hamilton” perceived dominance.

#Drama Desk Awards, # Hamilton, # Tonys, #Jessica Lange, #Cynthia Arivo, #A Long Day’s Journey Into Night, #Color Purple, #Best Actress in a Leading Role, #Danny Burstein, #Frank Langella, #Fiddler on the Roof, #The Father, #Lyn-Manuel Miranda, #Renee Elise Goldsberry,#Jayne HowdyShell #The Humans

Jayne Houdyshell Triumphs in Bways’ “The Humans”!

The Humans 1Jayne Houdyshell Humans 1Jayne Houdyshell, an actress I’ve always found astonishing, reaches the peak of her long career in Broadway’s newest and most unlikely hit, “The Humans.” Houdyshell had a two decades long career in regional theater and was “discovered” in mid-life as the mother that couldn’t stop criticizing her lesbian daughter in Lisa Kron’s break-through play “Well” that started at the Public Theater and moved uptown to Broadway. And Broadway has pretty much been her home ever since.

Houdyshell is the kind of actress playwrights dream of and though she has won tons of awards( the Drama Desk gave her a career achievement award a few years back), I can’t remember her having a leading part like the one she has now, and in a hit play to boot. “The Humans” is powered by her powerhouse performance as Deidre Blake, again a mother, but this time an Irish Catholic mother to end all mothers. Deidre is caught between a rock and a hard place as she tries to hold her unwieldy family together as they embark on a tumultuous Thanksgiving gathering in her daughter’s duplex in Chinatown.

It’s one of the best plays of the year. Playwright Stephen Karam has written what all of the American theater has been longing for. A great new American play. Set today, it’s totally current and absolutely vital, and unflinching in its’ detail of the lives we New Yorkers, we humans, live .

With horror film and Internet references galore, Karam and the titanically talented director Joe Mantello ingratiate “The Humans” into your soul and invite you to be a member of this troubled family. They hook you into sitting down to Thanksgiving dinner with the at-first-glance very bland Blakes, and there you are experiencing something that you’d never thought you’d be experiencing, a top-level, quality evening in the theater, by some one who’s now going to be considered one of America’s important young playwrights.

What a joy this is to discover so much talent in one place, at one time, doing the thing it should be doing, bringing us the best in theater! Which is what Broadway is supposed to be doing. After all, shouldn’t that be going on all the time on the Great White Way? And so seldom is.”The Humans” is so good, it’s shocking.

And to have the majestic Jayne Houdyshell at the top of the bill, guiding this ship into port, as it were, with a superb ensemble who are all excellently cast and doing what sounds easy, but is really almost impossible, make you believe that they are the Blake family and you’re a friend, who they’ve also invited over for Thanksgiving dinner. But little did you know what you’re in for! Folding chairs, card tables and paper plates and cups. And not a turkey in sight! Only health foods!

Reed Birney is perfect matched as Deidre’s troubled husband Blake. Lauren Klein, is simply amazing and amazingly simple, as Deidre’s wheel-chair bound, dementia-ridden mother “Momo”, Cassie Beck & Sarah Steele as their struggling daughters, one gay and one straight, and Arian Moayed as the genial, still not married, but living together sort-of son-in-law.

Cassie Beck The Humans

Cassie Beck, in particular, (above) as the frazzled lesbian lawyer daughter,Aimee, who is going through a difficult break-up with her lover. And  it is to “The Humans” great credit that the Blake family treat this as something to be compassionate about and otherwise her sexuality is totally accepted in a refreshingly matter of fact way.

And the set! Once again I’ve seen astounding theater set design in one week! First “Hughie”s haunting green-lit majestic, ruined hotel and now David Zinn’s Chinatown duplex that is not as grand as it sounds, and as is just as knock-about and seems about to fall down as the Times Square hotel of the 1920’s in “Hughie.”

You just can FEEL this place shake,as it quavers under the  supersonic,crashing thuds that periodically drop on it from the (un-seen) floor above (sound design by Fitz Patton.) It’s a ground-floor apartment attached to the basement by a spiral stair-case that’s in, as Reed Birney’s father describes it, “A flood zone.”

At one point Birney’s character quips, noting his daughters’ obsession with health foods, “If you’re so miserable, why do you want to live forever?” “The Humans” is so good it will restore your faith in the American theater and make you want to live forever, too, so you can see it over and over and over again. What a joyful surprise this play, Jayne Houdyshell and this production are!

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Tony Predictions Part Four

Tony Predictions Part Four

And continuing on and hopefully concluding, my four-part Tony Predictions, we now come to another hotly contended category, Best Actor in a Musical.

I think although he tied in a surprise at the Drama Desk Awards, with Jefferson Mays, who does 8 or 9 different roles in “A Gentleman’s Guide to Love and Murder” I think former host of the Tonys, Neil Patrick Harris is going to get the ultimate tribute and thank you from the Tony Voters here for his box-office busting drag turn as Hedwig in “Hedwig and the Angry Inch” which I also think is going to get Best Revival of a Musical.Neil Patrick Harris is everywhere on TV, too, talking, talking, talking. He’s campaigning. He wants it. He lost 20 pounds for this role. He’s got the momentum. He’ll get it.

“Beautiful” is going to garner its’ beautiful leading lady Jessie Mueller, who sings almost non-stop, and is hardly ever off-stage playing a marvelously understated Carole King, it’s going to garner Jessie her first Tony as Best Actress in a Musical as well it should. Subtlety and under-playing are not usually awards bait, but in this case, Jessie Mueller is the complete package.

Best Actor in a Play is going to be the its-his-time-to-shine Bryan Cranston, almost as much for his unforgettable Walter White in “Breaking Bad.” And “All the Way” the three-hour political play about LBJ will win Best Play. It also won both these awards at the Drama Desks. This is the year when everybody just wants to THROW as many awards willy nilly at Bryan Cranston as they possibly can. Lucky duck.

Best Actress in a Play will be Audra McDonald for her impeccable “Lady Day at Emerson’s Bar and Grille” in which though she sings a dozen or more of Billie Holiday’s greatest hits, although she is in the Best Actress in a PLAY category. It’s more than a little unfair to the dramatic actresses who are nominated in this category who just got there by their acting chops. Tyne Daly it’s a shame that you’re up against the unstoppable Awards magnet Audra McD. who will break all kinds of records by winning her SIXTH Tony award tomorrow night.

Audra was nominated in the CORRECT category for the Outer Critics Circle, Best Actress in a Musical, and she won that, too! Like Cranston, there’s no stopping her.

In the Supporting Actors, or Featured as they are called by the Tonys, only James Munroe Inglehart, as the larger-than-life Genie in “Aladdin”, is the only sure thing here in all four categories.

It’s really tricky predicting the other awards here. For Best Featured Actress in a Play it COULD be Celia Keenan-Bolger, for the long-closed revival of “A Glass Menagerie.” Celia has been nominated for a Tony three times and she’s beloved, but she’s up against first time nominee British actress Sophie Okenado making her Broadway debut for “A Raisin in the Sun.”

Sophie’s main problem is her competition is not just Celia Keenan-Bolger, but also her cast-mate Anika Noni Rose as her sister-in-law in “Raisin.” One of these two, probably Sophie, could take this and be the only award that “Raisin” is apt to win. The Tony voters notoriously snubbed Denzel Washington, who let’s face it, is why this great play is being revived so soon after it was just on the Great White Way with P. Diddy. And Felecia Rashad, who won in the Best Actress Category.

Also, in contention, is Mare Winningham for “Casa Valentina” as the real-woman house-mother to a hotel-full of straight transvestites in the Catskills in the 1960s. Any of these women are worthy. And could win. But there’s no clear front-runner here. If “degree of difficulty” comes into play as it often does at the Oscars, the crippled Laura of Celia Keenan-Bolger “Glass Menagerie” might take it. It’s really hard to call this one. But it also should be noted that Mare Winningham WON in this category for the Outer Critics Circle Awards. She tied with Andrea Martin for “Act One” who is not nominated for a Tony. And Celia Keenan-Bolger was not nominated for the OCC. And Celia has picked up some other precursor awards, too, it must be noted, which gives her the edge.

And Sophie Okenado and Anika Noni Rose might cancel each other out, being from the same show, “Raisin”, and “Raisin” wasn’t as acclaimed as “A Glass Menagerie” was.

It’s also hard to call the other Featured Actress in a Musical category winner. It was so close at the Drama Desk it was ANOTHER tie between Lauren Worsham and Anika Larsen for “Gentleman’s Guide…” and “Beautiful” respectively. It could either of these two, who were also profiled together in the New York Times. I’m going to do a coin toss and say it’s Anika.

She plays Carole King’s wise-cracking best friend and co-composer and rival song-writer. It’s a more substantial, and layered role. So I think Ms. Larsen takes this one.This most competitive category is rounded out by Linda Emond in “Cabaret” playing the Lotte Lenya role. And Lena Hall, playing a transgender MAN (who turns back into a woman!) in “Hedwig:And the Angry Inch.” And the stealth candidate is Adriane Lenox, who sings two sizzling songs in “After Midnight” and just steals the whole show. Full disclosure, she was my vote for the Drama Desk in this category.ANYbody could win and surprise in both these Featured Actress categories, really.

And then there’s Best Featured Actor in a Play, where we have the irresistible (to Tony Voters) Mark Rylance as Lady Olivia in the unforgettably delightful Elizabethan mounting of “Twelfth Night.” Even though this show is long closed and Rylance already has already won Tonys aplenty, I think he’s going to win again, against Reed Birney’s terrific, but evil transvestite Charlotte in “Casa Valentina.”

Rylance, who will inevitably recite an obscure poem when he wins, even if he’s there to accept(he may be in London), and bore the audience to death, also has the added bonus of being nominated in the Best Actor in a Play category for his “Richard III” which was performed in rep, with the glittering “Twelfth Night.”

In conclusion, I’d like to point out that though “A Gentleman’s Guide…” seems poised to win the most Tonys, its’ creative team are the ones that are going to carry the day, but none of its’ supremely talented performers look like they are going to win. The competition is THAT tough this year.

Jefferson Mays won the Outer Critics Circle and tied with Neil Patrick Harris for Best Actor in a Musical. And the terrific Bryce Pinkham as Monte Navarro, our hero,or anti-hero, as the most lovable serial killer ever is going to split the “A Gentleman’s Guide..” votes with Mays and they are both going to get steam-rolled by the Neil Patrick Harris juggernaut. Lauren Worsham, in the all-over-the-place, Best Featured Actress in a Musical category,tied with Anika Larsen in this category. Is her adorable, innocent, coloratura ingenue going to surprise and trounce Larsen. She might. She is cuteness and purity and good girl personified.

So don’t miss the Tonys tonight on CBS at 8pm. Hosted by the always watchable Hugh Jackman it will feature production numbers from all the the nominated musicals and a few more extra-special bits, too.

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