Will ‘Virginia Woolf’ next season scare off Laurie Metcalf’s 3rd consecutive Tony Award this season for ‘Hillary and Clinton’?

Just as “Hillary and Clinton” opens on Broadway, its star Laurie Metcalf has already lined up her next Broadway gig, and it’s an iconic one at that. The two-time Tony Award winner (“A Doll’s House Part 2,” “Three Tall Women”) will return to Broadway next spring in a remounting of Edward Albee’s legendary play “Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf” opposite Eddie Izzard, Russell Tovey and Patsy Ferran. Joe Mantello, who led Metcalf to her second Tony win last year and could help her win her third this year for “Hillary,” will direct the revival.

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Although 11 months out from its first performance, Metcalf’s role will mark the actress’s fifth consecutive season treading the boards on the Great White Way. Could it impact her Tony prospects this season? If Metcalf wins the Tony this year for playing a fictionalized version of Hillary Clinton, she will make history as the first actor to win the trophy three years consecutively.

With the legendary role of Martha waiting in the wings next season, however, Tony voters might see a reason to defer Metcalf’s third victory. Even before the announcement of her return to Broadway next season, Metcalf faced stiff competition from the critically-acclaimed likes of Elaine May (“The Waverly Gallery”), reigning champion Glenda Jackson (“King Lear”), Pulitzer-Prize finalist Heidi Schreck (“What the Constitution Means to Me”) and still to-be-reviewed Annette Bening (“All My Sons”).

Some voters, who will have the unenviable task of picking a winner from such an esteemed category of performers, may decide to reward an actress who will not be on Broadway next season. May, for one, waited half of a century before returning to the rialto. For Jackson, that number tallied three decades last season, as it does for Bening this time around. All other things equal, the promise of Metcalf’s turn as Martha next year may tempt voters to go elsewhere this year.

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Not so fast, though, Tony historians might say. While epic in scope and towering in the American theatre canon, the role of Martha has had a spotty track record at the Tonys. Uta Hagen, who originated the role on Broadway, took home the award for Best Actress in a Play in 1963. Four years later, Elizabeth Taylor claimed the Academy Award for Best Lead Actress for the film adaptation. All subsequent actresses who have taken on the role on stage in the decades that followed (Colleen Dewhurst, 1977; Kathleen Turner, 2005; Amy Morton, 2013) have all scored Tony nominations, but none have taken home the trophy. With Martha now seemingly an awards-bridesmaid rather than the bride, voters might not be so sure in penciling in Metcalf’s “Virginia Woolf” victory after all.

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