Every Tony Awards nominations morning features thrilling surprises and shocking omissions, and even in a year with an unfortunately thinner slate of shows due to COVID-19, theatre fans will inevitably find themselves gutted by a snub or two on October 15. Below, I spotlight four contenders whose contributions to the season I hope will not get overlooked by the Tonys nominating committee.
Featured Actor in a Play––Will Hochman (“The Sound Inside”)
“The Sound Inside” deserves across-the-board Tony nominations, and bids for Best Play, Mary-Louise Parker, and director David Cromer all seem assured. Out of the categories where its chances seem a bit shakier, though, a Featured Actor nomination for Will Hochman sits at the very top of my wish list. Holding one’s own in a two-hander with Tony-champion Parker sounds like a gargantuan task, but Hochman made it look effortless. His take on Christopher, an at-first unlikable college student who strikes up an unlikely friendship with his professor Bella Baird (Parker), managed to be both cuttingly funny in his blunt assessments of life and literature and introspective. Though Featured Actor boasts no shortage of contenders––26 to be exact––Hochman more than deserves to be shortlisted in the top five.
Actor and Featured Actress in a Play––Campbell Scott, Andrea Martin, LaChanze (“A Christmas Carol”)
No doubt this visually-stunning production of “A Christmas Carol” will land a few well-deserved nominations, especially for Matthew Warchus’ inventive direction, but its cast might get left out in the cold. It would be awfully Scrooge-like of the nominators to snub Campbell Scott, Andrea Martin, and LaChanze for their turns as Ebenezer, the Ghost of Christmas Past, and the Ghost of Christmas Present, respectively. Scott, whose father George C. Scott played the role in the 1984 film, brought such heart to Scrooge that audiences felt they were seeing the well-worn character anew. The same goes for Martin and LaChanze, who both mined their characters for every ounce of humor and foreboding. Their unexpected takes on the characters helped revitalize the age-old Charles Dickens’ classic, and I hope the Tonys acknowledge at least one of them for leading a masterful ensemble.
Direction of a Play––Jamie Lloyd (“Betrayal”)
A bare stage, a textured wall, a few modest wooden chairs, a turntable, and an awful lot of deception. With so little, Jamie Lloyd helmed an emotionally-searing and insightful production of Harold Pinter’s often-revived “Betrayal.” In its simplicity, Lloyd offered a radically different “Betrayal” than Mike Nichols’ from just nine years before. Though neither mounting lacked in star-wattage––Nichols cast husband-and-wife duo Daniel Craig and Rachel Weisz, while Lloyd enlisted Tom Hiddleston––Lloyd stripped away all of the bourgeois trappings that can belabor a production of “Betrayal” and let Pinter’s words speak for themselves. With the brilliant aid of his lighting designer Jon Clark, Lloyd created, for me, one of the most indelible tableaus of the season: the love triangle alternates holding hands while the turntable slowly moves, and their shadows tower ominously over them.
Lighting Design of a Play––“The Sound Inside”
On the subject of striking stage images, I would be remiss if I left off Aaron Rhyne’s projection design for “The Sound Inside” from my list, because he created the single most soul-crushing visual of the season: while Mary-Louise Parker, standing on a dark, empty stage, bluntly discusses her character Bella’s cancer diagnosis, a glaringly white, gray, and black projection of her scans suddenly shocks the Studio 54 audience with their light and their inescapable, devastating truth. If the American Theatre Wing follows the precedent from previous seasons, projection designers will be honored with lighting designers in the Lighting Design category, so Rhyne would share his bid with the equally-worthy work of Heather Gilbert, who made the large stage and theatre feel uncannily intimate for the shadowy two-hander.