With the Tonys only one week away, get the rundown on each of the best revival of a play nominees with The Hollywood Reporter's original reviews of all five plays.
Angels in America is nominated for the best revival of a play at the 2018 Tony Awards alongside Edward Albee's Three Tall Women, Eugene O'Neill's The Iceman Cometh, Lobby Hero and Travesties.
Look back at all the original reviews of these plays before the winner is announced during a June 10 ceremony at 8 p.m. ET, airing live on CBS (tape-delayed on the West Coast) from New York City's Radio City Music Hall. Sara Bareilles and Josh Groban are set to host.
There's a wealth of specific references throughout Angels in America to pinpoint the time frame of Tony Kushner's glorious epic canvas to the mid-1980s — the AIDS crisis was at its height, Reaganomics was reshaping the future, damage to the ozone layer was setting off alarm bells, and Mikhail Gorbachev's glasnost policy reforms were bringing an end to the Cold War. But don't let that fool you into thinking this landmark theatrical diptych is a sociopolitical history lesson. For evidence of how relevant the drama remains more than 25 years after it was first produced, just observe Nathan Lane's virtuoso turn as far-right power broker Roy M. Cohn. That litigious, biliously profane bully systematically denies his homosexuality, his illness and any other inconvenient truth, defining himself with one blunt little word: clout.Even without the knowledge that Cohn was the trusted attorney of a young Donald Trump, just as he himself had been mentored by reviled demagogue Joseph McCarthy, the connection to our current reality of alternative facts, political degradation and shameless conflicts of interest is as bold as the neon that throbs in the semi-darkness onstage. In a superlative production like this one, directed with laser-like acuity by Marianne Elliott and imported from London's National Theatre, it's the prescience of the writing that truly astonishes — no less than the harrowing beauty, the wildly imaginative flights and the acerbic humor of the drama, or the riveting work of a magnificent ensemble.
Stage acting doesn't get any better than Glenda Jackson's performance as the autocratic nonagenarian in Edward Albee's Three Tall Women, modeled on the adoptive mother with whom the playwright had a famously thorny relationship. On Broadway for the first time in 30 years (23 of which she spent as a member of British Parliament), the two-time Oscar winner shows no trace of rustiness in a characterization of such diamond-hard ferocity you dare not take your eyes off her. It's an almost ridiculous luxury that in Joe Mantello's crystalline production of this brittle but moving play about death and self-knowledge, two such accomplished actors as Laurie Metcalf and Alison Pill become supplementary dividends.
With its taut structure, psychological acuity, acid-dipped humor and fragmented approach toward anatomizing a single life, not to mention its transparency as a work of an intensely personal nature, Three Tall Women did much to restore Albee's reputation. After the early plays that had established him as a bracingly original voice in American drama — among them The Zoo Story, Who's Afraid of Virginia Woolf? and A Delicate Balance — the playwright had fallen out of favor through the 1980s, producing work that remained frustratingly cryptic, arid and distancing. Sorting through unresolved feelings toward his adoptive mother in a play he once described as "a kind of exorcism," Albee's writing here feels revitalized, which makes this 1994 Pulitzer-winning drama a fine choice for the first Broadway production of his work since his death in 2016.
The surest way to get as pickled as the self-deceiving regulars at Harry Hope's downtown New York dive bar in The Iceman Cometh would be to take a shot of whiskey every time someone says "pipe dreams." Eugene O'Neill was seldom one to go easy on emphatic repetition of his themes, and the playwright's bleak vision of men drowning their deferred plans in cheap booze can be as prolix as it is poetic. George C. Wolfe's revival feels on some levels like it's still cohering, the underlying despair remaining muted for too much of the three-hour-45-minute running time. But it comes together in a powerful final act driven by the searing confessional monologue of Denzel Washington's Hickey.There's a symphonic quality to this brawny four-act 1946 drama, with its flavorful early 20th century New York vernacular and its cast of 17 major characters all doing their best with their big talk to fool themselves about the hollowness of their stalled lives. Wolfe has assembled a talented ensemble, almost all digging deep into their characters. Their individual stories have a unique music as they blather on about a past that was probably never quite what they claim, and a future that they refuse to concede is fermenting in the bottom of a glass. The production perhaps could have used a longer preview period, since the choral aspect of the performances is still one step behind the solo work. But it's compelling enough to suggest the ideal balance will come.
Let's get the obvious question out of the way up front: Does Chris Evans cut it in his leap from the superhero universe to the naturalistic comedy-drama of Kenneth Lonergan's Lobby Hero? Absolutely. Evans fully inhabits his character of a vain but well-liked New York City career cop on track to make detective, who is quite comfortable rationalizing to himself abuses of power large and small in a profession where gender inequality and toxic masculinity come with the badge. The actor best known as Captain America brings plenty of cocky swagger, his thumbs hooked into his utility belt like an Old West cowboy with a bushy mustache to match, but his assured performance never aims to be a star turn. Rather, it's an integral part of an evenly balanced, four-person ensemble piece.Nor is Lonergan's play, first produced in 2001, strictly a hot-button work ahead of the curve in exploring imbalances of power that have become such a pressing part of the national conversation in the era of #MeToo, Time's Up and Black Lives Matter. As we've come to expect from this thoughtful, compassionate writer — an Oscar winner last year for his screenplay for the symphonic domestic drama Manchester by the Sea — Lobby Hero is a textured consideration of more or less honest characters dealing with sticky moral questions, its dramatic pulse and its needling humor underscored by a rich vein of melancholy.
You might want to do a bit of homework before seeing the Broadway revival of Travesties. Perhaps a little digging into the history of the Russian Revolution and the reasons for the first world war. Then you should refresh your memory of the early 20th century avant-garde art movement known as Dadaism. A rereading of Oscar Wilde's The Importance of Being Earnest is a must. And if you have the time, finally finishing James Joyce's Ulysses wouldn't hurt.If all that sounds a bit daunting, worry not. You don't have to enroll for a graduate degree to enjoy Tom Stoppard's simultaneously wacky and intellectual 1974 comedy, now being given its first-ever Broadway revival by the Roundabout Theater Company. That's largely due to the accessible nature of director Patrick Marber's rollickingly staged production, which garnered raves for its London stints at the Menier Chocolate Factory and the West End. The handy crib sheet provided in the program doesn't hurt, either.