Why ‘Vanya’ will win Best Play at the Tony Awards

All 15 experts polled by Gold Derby predict Christopher Durang‘s “Vanya and Sonia and Marsha and Spike” will win the Tony Award for Best Play on Sunday.

Why? It has swept all the precursor awards, winning Best Play from the New York Drama Critics Circle, Drama League and the Drama Desk. This suggests that there’s a wide range of support in the theater community, especially for its actors. “Vanya” received Tony nominations in every acting category in which it was eligible, reaping bids for David Hyde Pierce, Kristine Nielsen, Shalita Grant and Billy Magnussen.

The show is scheduled to depart on a national tour, starting at the Berkeley Repertory Theatre in September or October. This means voters (many are producers) can back something that may be financially successful while bringing Broadway to many cities and places around the U.S.

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“Vanya’s” main — however distant — competition is Nora Ephon‘s “Lucky Guy,” which stars two-time Oscar champ Tom Hanks, who is nominated for Best Actor at the Tonys. It depicts the story of Mike McAlary, Pulitzer Prize-winning tabloid columnist who was most known for exposing police cruelty against  a Haitian immigrant, Abner Louima. This is the last play by Ephon, who died in June 2012. Over a career spanning 40 years, she wrote such classic films as “Silkwood,” “When Harry Met Sally” and “Sleepless in Seattle” plus stage plays like Off-Broadway hit “Love, Loss and What I Wore.”

Even though “Lucky Guy” scored six Tony nominations, many theater insiders believe that the show lacks solid focus, often rotating with between two major story lines. Critics have praised Hanks and the great ensemble performances as well as Ephorn’s writing. Ben Brantley of the New York Times said, “‘Lucky Guy’ is both an elegy and a valentine to a vanishing world held dear in the collective imagination of New Yorkers. It has the energy of the perpetually engaged, insatiably curious observer that Nora Ephorn never ceased to be.” Even though there are many positive aspects of the play, many insiders believe it’s in need of major editing. Therefore, there is great doubt the play has much luck to win Best Play until the awards show turns into a lovefest for Nora Ephron.

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Also nominated is “The Assembled Parties” by Richard Greenberg, who won this Tony category for baseball drama “Take Me Out” (2003). It tells the story of a New York Jewish family wrestling with
personal and ethical issues similar to those explored in “August: Osage County” and “Dividing the Estate,” which were both nominated for Best Play in past years. However, “The Assembled Parties”  underperformed at Tony nominations, earning only three bids, including Best Play and Featured Actress (Judith Light), but nothing for lead actress Jessica Hecht, who also appeared on Broadway this season in “Harvey” opposite Jim Parsons. Playwright Greenberg also did double Broadway duty this year with another play on the boards, “Breakfast at Tiffany’s” based upon Truman Capote’s novella. “The Assembled Parties” has the potential to pull off an upset, but it’s unlikely.

The final nominee is “The Testament of Mary” by Irish novelist and playwright Colm Toibin, which depicts an elderly version of Mary, mother of Jesus, haunted by doubts of her son’s divinity. The production was imported from the Dublin Theatre Festival and earned solid reviews, but it closed after two weeks. That hurts its Tony chances – as does the absence of a nomination for star Fiona Shaw.

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