Written by by M.I.T’s Jason Carson and Kristofer Hivju
With barely four weeks to go before the Tony Awards, critics say the conversation about best play is fizzling.
Among those at least some of the best theater hasn’t even been nominated. But the play most considered a likely contender ― the play that it was named best play in 2017 and was a front-runner again in this year’s race for best play ― Slave Play, based on true stories of slavery in Denmark, is coming back to the Great White Way.
When Samuel D. Hunter became the artistic director of the Public Theater last year, he promised to turn the legacy of this famed theater, which plays host to some of the best theater in the country, into an opportunity to move more productions to Broadway.
It’s not always easy to make that happen ― Broadway is the industry’s largest stage in the world and a company’s identity is mainly measured by how many shows they can bring to the big leagues.
Undaunted, in the days before its Broadway plans even took shape, Hunter announced at the beginning of October that he was bringing Slave Play back.
On November 3, tickets for the NYC production go on sale. When they are made available on the Public Theater’s website, the $75 tickets go faster than expected.
Critics like the one at the Daily News, a show that came in second behind King Lear in the 2016 Tony race, say they couldn’t believe the drama was shut out at the Tony Awards this year.
Others saw it as an indicator that the Tony and other national theater awards are in an ongoing and shifting conversation that is pushing out their own nominee.
Slavery Play’s, like King Lear’s, was a big hit, but critics could not have imagined the show breaking through among the top nominees.
“We don’t have much interest in some think tank from the year 3000 who have all the answers. But we do have a lot of interest in the present moment, in what we are doing in terms of the theater and the possible ways to best realize and understand this world in the present,” Hunter told CNN.
But some argue that critics and theatergoers, like voters, don’t always correctly identify a winner.
Not even Helen Mirren as King Lear, despite the fact that both Her Majesty and Hunter’s company won out as the year’s best at the Olivier Awards.
And on the other hand, the set design for King Lear, created by William Treanor, looks ready to tear down a new set as soon as the curtain goes up.
So it remains to be seen how Slave Play’s return will effect the Tony race.