20 years after her first Tony, Mary-Louise Parker (‘The Sound Inside’) could finally take home bookend

Two decades ago Mary-Louise Parker won her first Tony Award for her enthralling performance in David Auburn’s “Proof.” Five Broadway appearances later, Parker is on the cusp of winning the second Tony of her career for her searing turn in Adam Rapp’s “The Sound Inside,” according to our exclusive Tony Awards predictions. “The Sound Inside” has six nominations, including Best Play.

Parker earned the best reviews of her stage career for “The Sound Inside,” topping even the rapturous notices she received for “Proof.” Back then, John Simon (New York Magazine) called Parker’s work in “Proof” “a performance of genius.” In his rave review of “The Sound Inside,” Jesse Green (New York Times) wrote, “Parker, never better in her 30-year stage career, has dug even deeper into Bella, treating each line as if it were an archaeological site; she builds her performance on artifacts, not theories.” Vinson Cunningham (New Yorker) marveled of Parker that her “magnetism is hard to pin down, largely because it comes from somewhere antecedent to any line she delivers or gesture she executes. Hers is an art of thought.”

WATCH Tony Awards 2021 slugfest: Who has the edge in the incredibly competitive Play races?

From the jump, Parker started strong on Broadway, earning a Tony nomination for her first appearance in Craig Lucas’ “Prelude to a Kiss” in 1990. She later starred in a revival of “Bus Stop” in 1996 before delivering her star-making turn in “Proof.” Three years after her victory, she starred in and earned another nomination for Lucas’ “Reckless” in 2004, before turning to television to play her best-recognized role of Nancy Botwin in “Weeds.” Parker earned three Emmy nominations, six SAG nominations, and won a Golden Globe for the character. She has an Emmy for her performance in the HBO adaptation of Tony Kushner’s epic play “Angels in America.”

Though Parker has returned to the boards many times since “Reckless,” those efforts didn’t earn her awards recognition. Those outings included the title role in a revival of Henrik Ibsen’s “Hedda Gabler” (2009), the lead in Sharr White’s “The Snow Geese” (2013), and a critically-acclaimed performance in Simon Stephens’ “Heisenberg” (2016). Her snub for the latter, a spartan and moving two-hander, came as a surprise, especially since her co-star Denis Arndt earned a nomination for Best Actor.

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If Parker wins the Best Actress award on Sunday, she will be only the eighth performer to win two trophies in the category. Those who have accomplished this feat include Helen Hayes for “Happy Birthday” (1947) and “Time Remembered” (1958), Shirley Booth for “Come Back, Little Sheba” (1950) and “The Time of the Cuckoo” (1953), Uta Hagen for “The Country Girl” (1951) and “Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf?” (1963), Margaret Leighton for “Separate Tables” (1957) and “The Night of the Iguana” (1962), Irene Worth for “Tiny Alice” (1965) and “Sweet Bird of Youth” (1976), Glenn Close for “The Real Thing” (1984) and “Death and the Maiden” (1992), and Cherry Jones for “The Heiress” (1995) and “Doubt” (2005). Only three other actresses have earned more trophies in the category: Julie Harris has five, and Zoe Caldwell and Jessica Tandy have three each.

Parker might not have been on track to accomplish this rare feat had the 2019-2020 season gone off without the hitch of the coronavirus pandemic. Prior to the Broadway shutdown, Parker had planned to star in the first Broadway production of Paula Vogel’s Pulitzer Prize-winning play “How I Learned to Drive,” which was slated to begin performances in March and open right before the eligibility cut-off in April. Parker previously played the role of Li’l Bit to great notices Off-Broadway in 1997, and this production would have reunited her with her co-stars David Morse and Johanna Day, plus original director Mark Brokaw. Many were predicting Parker to earn nominations for both “Sound Inside” and “Drive,” which would have likely led to her splitting her own vote and losing for both turns.

WATCH our exclusive video interview with Daniel Kluger (‘The Sound Inside’ composer and sound designer)

Fortunately, “Drive” will now bow on Broadway in April 2022 with the intended 2020 cast in tact. Not only will Parker avoid a vote-split this year, then, but if she wins for “The Sound Inside,” she could go on to win two times in a row with “Drive” and perhaps even become a three-time winner in the category to join the legendary ranks of Caldwell and Tandy.

PREDICT the 2021 Tony winners through September 26

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