2022 Tony Awards slugfest: 20 productions vie for places in Play races [WATCH]

“It’s been a great season for Black playwrights,” Sam Eckmann says as he introduces Gold Derby’s first slugfest of the 2022 Tony Awards season. A whopping 20 new plays and play revivals are eligible this season, with many of those written by, directed by, and starring Black artists. Sam and I met six weeks ahead of the nominations – which will be announced on May 3 – to debate which productions, actors, and directors will make the shortlists. Watch the full video above.

From the jump, we tackle one of the biggest categories of the ceremony with Best Play but choose different frontrunners. While I have “The Lehman Trilogy” in first place for now since so many of the contenders have not yet even started previews, Sam warns, “You have to go back to 2007 with ‘Coast of Utopia’ to find a play that was closed by the time of the Tony ceremony that won.” He opts for “The Minutes” instead because it feels “politically relevant.” Sam wonders how the “thrilling” repertory shows “Dana H.” and “Is This a Room” will fare, while I bet on Dominique Morisseau’s “Skeleton Crew” nabbing one of the slots.

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For the other big prize of the night – Best Revival of a Play – Sam and I split again. Sam chooses “for colored girls who have considered suicide / when the rainbow is enuf” because the original feels “very near and dear to a lot of people” and this production boasts the work of “rising star” director and choreographer Camille A. Brown. I’m betting on “How I Learned to Drive,” a Pulitzer-Prize winning play by Paula Vogel that has not appeared on Broadway before. This production uniquely features the return of many of the original Off-Broadway cast reprising their roles from 25 years ago. I also raise the “topical” “Trouble in Mind” and Sam mentions the rarely-produced and “gargantuan” “The Skin of Our Teeth.”

In Actress, Sam raves about Deirdre O’Connell from “Dana H.,” who delivered “one of the most incredible things I’ve ever seen an actor do on stage.” While I have her in second place, I pick Mary-Louise Parker for “How I Learned to Drive” to win. Even though Parker won the Tony in this category just last year for her work in “The Sound Inside,” it’s not terribly uncommon for performers to win twice in two years – think, for example, Judith Light and Laurie Metcalf. I also mention the “brilliant” LaChanze (“Trouble in Mind”) and Sam spotlights Gabby Beans (“The Skin of Our Teeth”) and Ebony Marshall-Oliver (“Chicken & Biscuits”).

For Actor, Sam makes the case for David Threlfall from “Hangmen,” arguing, “Mark Addy was originally playing this role and he was leading our odds” back in 2020. I mention likely nominees Tracy Letts (“The Minutes”) and David Morse (“How I Learned to Drive”) and suggest that Ruben Santiago-Hudson (“Lackawanna Blues”) could surprise because he gave a “bravura” performance in a show “he wrote, directed, and starred in.”

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When we turn to the Featured Actor race, Sam and I finally agree on Alfie Allen, who steps into the “Hangmen” role that Dan Stevens played in 2020 before the pandemic forced the show to go dark. “The one person I hope really gets in is Chuck Cooper in ‘Trouble in Mind,’” Sam shares, because he delivered “a monologue for the ages and truly stops the show.” I mention Ron Cephas Jones from Lynn Nottage’s “Clyde’s,” a comedy with an important message and heart in which he “has a lot of the gravitas and the more emotional beats.”

On the subject of “Clyde’s,” we discuss Featured Actress and likely nominee Uzo Aduba. We also ponder the prospects of performers including previous winner Priscilla Lopez (“The Skin of our Teeth”), nominees Tracie Bennett (“Hangmen”) and Amber Gray (“Macbeth”), plus Sally Murphy (“The Minutes”) and Kenita R. Miller (“for colored girls”).

To conclude, we briefly discuss Best Director, where we again agree on Tony-winner Sam Mendes as the frontrunner for “The Lehman Trilogy.” We also talk about potential nominees Camille A. Brown (“for colored girls”), Scott Ellis (“Take Me Out”), and Ruben Santiago-Hudson (“Skeleton Crew”), amongst others.

PREDICT the 2022 Tony Awards nominees now through May 3

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