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Who Will Receive a Tony Nomination in 2022 for Their Performance in a Play?

Our critics discuss the acting categories when it comes to plays.

Broadway eagerly awaits the announcement of the 2022 Tony Award nominations. Originally scheduled to be released this week, the announcement has been postponed to Monday, May 9, to give the nominators enough time to see every eligible production. But that won't stop our critics from sounding off on which actors they think will make the cut. Here are our critics' predictions for the categories of Best Performance by a Featured Actress in a Play, Best Performance by a Featured Actor in a Play, Best Performance by a Leading Actress in a Play, and Best Performance by a Leading Actor in a Play:

Phylicia Rashad starred in the Broadway production of Dominique Morisseau's Skeleton Crew.
(© Matthew Murphy)

Best Performance by a Featured Actress in a Play

David Gordon:

Johanna Day, How I Learned to Drive
Rachel Dratch, POTUS
Phylicia Rashad, Skeleton Crew
Gabby Beans, The Skin of Our Teeth
Kenita R. Miller, For Colored Girls...

The performances in this category run the gamut from completely serious to over-the-top absurd. The only person on this list that's assured of a nomination is Rashad, though I am hoping against hope that Miller scores a slot for her sterling performance in For Colored Girls, in which she, at eight months pregnant in real life, is nightly recounting a story about the unthinkable happening to children.

Zachary Stewart:

Crystal Finn, Birthday Candles
Rachel Dratch, POTUS
Phylicia Rashad, Skeleton Crew
Gabby Beans, The Skin of Our Teeth
Kenita R. Miller, For Colored Girls...

This category has a lot of room for variables, but I think Phylicia Rashad comes the closest to having a lock on at least a nomination, if not the win. I'm filling out the rest of the category with some of my personal favs of the season, including the hilarious Rachel Dratch, Crystal Finn and her exquisite dread, the hyperactive Gabby Beans in The Skin of Our Teeth, and a radiant Kenita R. Miller in For Colored Girls...

UPDATE (MAY 5 2:25PM): Welp, we got the first of these wrong. Tony Awards Administration Committee met today to determine eligibility for the remaining 15 productions of the Broadway season, and Gabby Beans will be considered "Leading" rather than "Featured" for her performance in The Skin of Our Teeth. If she gets a nomination on Monday morning, it won't be in this category.


Mary-Louise Parker stars in the Broadway production of Paula Vogel's How I Learned to Drive.
(© Jeremy Daniel)

Best Performance by a Leading Actress in a Play

David Gordon:

LaChanze, Trouble in Mind
Mary-Louise Parker, How I Learned to Drive
Sarah Jessica Parker, Plaza Suite
Deirdre O'Connell, Dana H.
Julie White, POTUS

Two Parkers, two very different performances (and Sarah Jessica is in the highest-grossing non-musical of the season). Beyond them, I'd love to see Deirdre O'Connell land on this list for her absolutely insane performance in Dana H., which didn't last very long but required an unmatched skill set from its leading lady. She lip-synched all of her lines and built a remarkable, organic, and original performance around someone else's voice, which I don't think I've ever seen before in a non-drag setting.

Zachary Stewart:

Emily Davis, Is This a Room
Deirdre O'Connell, Dana H.
LaChanze, Trouble in Mind
Mary-Louise Parker, How I Learned to Drive
Julie White, POTUS

I put SJP in, I took her out. Then I put her back in and took her out again. You may be right, David, that she will benefit from the same good will that is likely to drive nominations to Hugh Jackman and Billy Crystal. However, I hope that this category recognizes the extraordinary lead actresses in last fall's two experimental shows in rep (Is This a Room and Dana H.). LaChanze will be a tough act to beat for her performance in the belated Broadway debut of Trouble in Mind, but the performances of Mary-Louise Parker and Julie White are more likely to be remembered by voters, since their shows are still open.


Jesse Tyler Ferguson stars in the Broadway revival of Richard Greenberg's Take Me Out.
(© Joan Marcus)

Best Performance by a Featured Actor in a Play

David Gordon:

Chuck Cooper, Trouble in Mind
Brandon J. Dirden, Skeleton Crew
Jesse Tyler Ferguson, Take Me Out
Ron Cephas Jones, Clyde's
Austin Pendleton, The Minutes

A category filled with extremely worthy performances that all deserve to be on this list. I have little confidence in the above except Ferguson, who is playing a Tony-winning part and making it his own, and Cooper, who held the audience in the palm of his hand during a devastating monologue in Trouble in Mind.

Zachary Stewart:

Joshua Boone, Skeleton Crew
Chuck Cooper, Trouble in Mind
Forrest McClendon, Thoughts of a Colored Man
Jesse Tyler Ferguson, Take Me Out
Austin Pendleton, The Minutes

There were a lot of great supporting performances this season, so this category is the one about which I'm least confident. I do think we'll see one of the men from Skeleton Crew, one of the men from The Minutes, and Jesse Tyler Ferguson, who really sells the more cerebral moments in Take Me Out with consistently hilarious line deliveries.


Sam Rockwell plays Teach in the Broadway revival of David Mamet's American Buffalo.
(© Richard Termine)

Best Performance by a Leading Actor in a Play

David Gordon:

Simon Russell Beale, The Lehman Trilogy
Adam Godley, The Lehman Trilogy
Adrian Lester, The Lehman Trilogy
David Morse, How I Learned to Drive
Sam Rockwell, American Buffalo

The Tonys will do what they love to do, which is nominate multiple people from one show in the same category — in this case, the three eminently worthy stars of The Lehman Trilogy. Rounding it out will be Sam Rockwell, whose performance in American Buffalo is the only redeeming factor of the production besides they set, and David Morse's career-best work as the leading man of How I Learn to Drive.

Zachary Stewart:

David Morse, How I Learned to Drive
Jesse Williams, Take Me Out
Sam Rockwell, American Buffalo
Ruben Santiago-Hudson, Lackawanna Blues
James Vincent Meredith, The Skin of Our Teeth

I'm going to conveniently ignore The Lehman Trilogy (and I suspect the nominators might also) and include beloved actor-director Ruben Santiago-Hudson (who really did give one of the best performances of the year) and Jesse Williams for his very revealing Broadway debut. I'm throwing in James Vincent Meredith to round out the category, but I agree that the real competition is between Morse and Rockwell.

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