Thursday, April 18, 2013

Best Play Tony Race: 'Parties' vs. 'Guy'

Jessica Hecht, Jeremy Shamos, and Judith Light
in The Assembled  Parties
Credit: Joan Marcus
The critics are sharply divided on the just-opened The Assembled Parties from playwright Richard Greenberg and Manhattan Theater Club. Many are positively swooning over it. Ben Brantley of the Times calls it "charming. It is also smart, sad and so impossibly well-spoken you may feel like giving up on conversation." Linda Winer of Newsday thinks it's "vibrant and touching." But there were a few detractors, notably Joe Dziemianowicz of the Daily News and Elisabeth Vincentelli of the Post. Given the many positive notices, and the lack of competition, Parties is now in a position to assume challenger status to Lucky Guy for the Best Play Tony. With its support among certain reviewers, it could win the New York Drama Critics Circle Award, setting up a battle between an elitist favorite (Parties) and a populist box-office draw headlined by a Hollywood star (Tom Hanks in Guy).

Parties, the story of a wealthy Upper West Side Jewish family and the outsider who becomes its loving caretaker, has many dazzlingly funny moments ("Republican Jews? What is that? It's like skinny fat people") and strong lead performances from Jessica Hecht and Judith Light, but I found it contrived and somewhat pretentious. Lucky Guy is a brawling, fast-paced vehicle for Hanks which moves like an action movie. Which one do you think box-office-minded Tony voters will go for? I'm guessing Lucky will be the lucky one on Tony night. The other main contenders are my personal favorite, Christopher Durang's hilarious Vanya and Sonia and Masha and Spike, Douglas Carter Beane's The Nance, and Sharr White's The Other Place. That last-named play, another Manhattan Theater Club production which was previously presented Off-Broadway by MCC, has closed, so I don't give it much hope to snag a nomination.

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