Nathan Lane (‘Angels in America’) could win third Tony Award, first for a play

Nathan Lane has won two Tony Awards from five nominations. This year, with his acclaimed turn as notorious attorney Roy Cohn in the Broadway revival of”Angels in America,” Lane hopes to claim his third Tony and first for a performance in a play.

Tony Kushner won the 1993 Pulitzer Prize and Tony for this play about the early days of AIDS. Lane portrays Cohn who, in 1985, is deeply closeted and has recently learned he has been infected. Cohn finds himself alone in the hospital, judged by those around him, including the ghost of Ethel Rosenberg, who was executed alongside husband Julius following Cohn’s successful prosecution at their espionage trial.

Ben Brantley‘s review in The New York Times was a love letter: “Taking on a role memorably embodied by Ron Leibman and Al Pacino, among others, he provides a fresh-as-toxic-paint interpretation that embraces extremes — of viciousness and, more surprisingly tenderness — without stripping gears. He is a fully human monster, which is the scariest kind.”

Portraying this larger-than-life character won Liebman a Tony for the original Broadway production of “Angels in America: Millennium Approaches” (1993), and Pacino an Emmy, Golden Globe and Screen Actors Guild Award for Mike Nichols‘ 2003 HBO miniseries adaptation. That pedigree could give Lane the edge in a tight race for Best Actor in a Play where he faces the likes of Denzel Washington (“The Iceman Cometh”), Mark Rylance (“Farinelli and the King”) and co-star Andrew Garfield.

SEE ‘Angels in America’: ‘Magnificent’ revival of Tony Kushner masterwork is Tony Awards frontrunner

Lane could have the edge with such overwhelming critical support. As Marilyn Stasio raved in Variety: “Cohn is at the peak of his dark strength and Lane revels in the power broker’s nasty, biting humor. (Lane is a genius on the phone: think ‘The Front Page’) ‘Listen, Ailene,’ he barks into the phone, ‘You think I’m the only goddamn lawyer in history ever missed a court date?!’ Like other egomaniacs we might name, Cohn honestly believes that his clients are indebted to him, and Lane seizes on the madness in his manic energy.”

Also praising Lane was David Rooney of The Hollywood Reporter: “Lane has never been more ferocious or more blisteringly funny, notably in the character’s dizzying introduction, juggling multiple phone calls with almost satanic mastery and scorching disdain for most of the callers on the other end of the line, all while tossing asides to a stupefied Joe. But there also are enough glimmers of pathetic vulnerability to humanize the monster.”

SEE 2018 Broadway spring season preview of plays: Which will be remembered by the Tony Awards?

Lane reaped his first Tony nomination for his breakout role as Nathan Detroit in the 1992 revival of “Guys and Dolls.” On that occasion, he fell short to Gregory Hines (“Jelly’s Last Jam”) but would rebound four years later, scoring his first Best Actor in a Musical award as Pseudolus in a revival of “A Funny Thing Happened on the Way to the Forum” (1996). Five years later, Lane again triumphed in this category, for his riveting portrayal of Max Biaystock in the smash hit musicalization of “The Producers” (2001).

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Since those two wins, he has lost twice, both for performances in plays. He contended in 2013 for his leading role in “The Nance” (2013), in which he portrayed the burlesque comic Chauncey Miles; Tracy Letts won for a revival of “Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf?” Last year, he reaped his first featured bid for his scene-stealing turn as newspaper editor Walter Burns in a revival of “The Front Page”; Michael Aronov (“Oslo”) won.

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