This year’s nominees for Best Play take us to 1920s Broadway, Washington, D.C.and the Catskills in the 1960s, and contemporary Manhattan and rural Ireland. Each examines conflicting values and individuals striving to express their identity against terrific odds.
James Lapine adapts Moss Hart’s beloved theatrical memoir to the stage in a loving valentine to the stage. Act One chronicles Hart’s early struggles to escape from his tenement background to working as an entertainment director at a Catskills resort, eventually becoming one of Broadway’s most celebrated playwrights and collaborating with the legendary George S. Kaufman on the smash comedy Once in the Lifetime.
All the Way
Pulitzer Prize winner Robert Schenkkan’s last Broadway play The Kentucky Cycle covered centuries of American history. Though this show only spans one year, his All the Way is just as epic. Focusing on Lyndon Johnson’s first year in office and his efforts to pass landmark Civil Rights legislation, a versatile cast playing multiple roles populates the White House, both houses of Congress, J. Edgar Hoover’s FBI, Martin Luther King’s Southern Christian Leadership Conference and its offshoots.
As he has done in Torch Song Trilogy, La Cage Aux Folles and last year’s Best Musical Kinky Boots, four-time Tony winner Harvey Fierstein explores the fluid nature of gender in his first non-musical Broadway show in more than 35 years. Based on actual events, the play focuses on a 1962 Catskills vacation colony in 1962 where heterosexual men are able to cross-dress in comfort and privacy. But in this pre-Stonewall era, danger lurks as attempts are made to bring make their lives public. David Cote of Time Out New York called the company “the finest corps of character actors onstage now.”
Mothers and Sons
Four-time Tony winner Terrence McNally revisits characters he created in his Emmy-winning teleplay Andre’s Mother in this moving examination of the bonds between parents and children and the new definition of family. Tony nominee Tyne Daly gives a shattering performance as Katherine, a Dallas widow paying an unexpected visit to the Upper West Side apartment of Cal (Frederick Weller), the former lover of her son Andre who died 20 years ago of AIDS. Generations and values clash as Katherine seeks closure.
Oscar and Tony winner John Patrick Shanley visits the land of his ancestors in this bittersweet romantic comedy, presented by Manhattan Theater Club earlier this season. Anthony and Rosemary are physically close, living on neighboring Irish farms. A land dispute ostensibly keeps them apart, but the real sticking point is their own fears and stubbornness. Brimming with Gaelic wit and tenderness, Shanley’s tale combines just the right amount of vinegar and honey.