Tony! Tony! Toný!
In which I make my Tony Awards not-predictions, say good riddance to the bad rubbish of “Game of Thrones,” and embrace my identification with Tinsley Mortimer.
|Louis Peitzman||May 21, 2019|| 3|
Every year the critics at the New York Times do their Tony Awards predictions, and every year I find myself more untethered from reality. It’s not so much that I disagree with Ben Brantley and Jesse Green — although I do, vehemently and often — but that my perception of the best theater of the year and the shows most likely to be rewarded with shiny trophies (they spin!) are so far removed from their picks that I sometimes feel like I’m living in an alternate universe. The more sensible explanation is that I exist not in a divergent timeline but in something of a bubble. I convince myself that What the Constitution Means to Me will sweep every conceivable award for the same reason that I’m certain Warren will ultimately get the nomination over Biden, and I’m inevitably disappointed when I discover that voters (for the Tonys and otherwise) are in fact less progressive and more set in their ways than the people I surround myself with. Does the average voter think Tootsie (which I did like, just to reiterate!) is problematic? No, and they’re probably not sure what all these millennials are whining about.
I’m not going to bother with official predictions, because I’ve never been particularly good at that — and let’s be real, most of what I predict ends up being some combination of all the other predictions I’ve read. Instead, here’s who I think should win. In some cases, that may very well overlap with who I think will win, and wouldn’t that be a blessing! Instead of rambling on about each of my choices, I’m breaking with my normal format, because, well, this is my newsletter and I get to make the rules. Also, one small caveat: I really have no strong opinions about sound design. I’m sorry, and I resolve to do better next year.
Best Play: What the Constitution Means to Me
Best Musical: Hadestown
Best Revival of a Play: Torch Song
Best Revival of a Musical: Oklahoma!
Best Performance by a Leading Actor in a Play: Jeremy Pope, Choir Boy
Best Performance by a Leading Actress in a Play: Heidi Schreck, What the Constitution Means to Me
Best Performance by a Leading Actor in a Musical: Damon Daunno, Oklahoma!
Best Performance by a Leading Actress in a Musical: Stephanie J. Block, The Cher Show
Best Performance by a Featured Actor in a Play: Gideon Glick, To Kill a Mockingbird
Best Performance by a Featured Actress in a Play: Julie White, Gary: A Sequel to Titus Andronicus
Best Performance by a Featured Actor in a Musical: André De Shields, Hadestown
Best Performance by a Featured Actress in a Musical: Ali Stroker, Oklahoma!
Best Direction of a Play: Sam Mendes, The Ferryman
Best Direction of a Musical: Daniel Fish, Oklahoma!
Best Book of a Musical: Chad Beguelin and Bob Martin, The Prom
Best Original Score: Anaïs Mitchell, Hadestown
Best Scenic Design of a Play: Santo Loquasto, Gary: A Sequel to Titus Andronicus
Best Scenic Design of a Musical: David Korins, Beetlejuice
Best Costume Design of a Play: Ann Roth, Gary: A Sequel to Titus Andronicus
Best Costume Design of a Musical: Bob Mackie, The Cher Show
Best Lighting Design of a Play: Peter Mumford, The Ferryman
Best Lighting Design of a Musical: Bradley King, Hadestown
Best Sound Design of a Play: Adam Cork, Ink
Best Sound Design of a Musical: Drew Levy, Oklahoma!
Best Choreography: Warren Carlyle, Kiss Me, Kate
Best Orchestrations: Daniel Kluger, Oklahoma!
Since we’re already breaking the rules, why don’t I go ahead and — for the very last time! — use the horror section of High Drama to talk about the series finale of Game of Thrones. (I know, I know, I just did this, but I need closure and you’ll live.) I’ve seen a lot of backlash to the backlash to Game of Thrones over the past week, and to some extent, I get it. When you are creating a petition to remake the final season (not dignifying that with a link), you’ve lost the thread, and that’s a level of fandom entitlement I can’t bring myself to defend. But just because some fans have gone off the deep end (imagine!), that doesn’t mean that the vast majority of criticisms of the final season of Game of Thrones aren’t valid. For many of us — and I’ve been saying this a lot, because uh, some people still aren’t hearing it — it’s not about where the story ended up, but about how we got there. I never expected an ending that would satisfy everyone, in part because when has a series finale ever satisfied anyone, but specifically because Game of Thrones thrived on pulling the rug out from under us. And on the one hand, I think the show wrapped things up surprisingly cleanly: I don’t particularly mind this ending! On the other hand, oh my god what a fucking mess.
It really does come down to the truncated episode order and these absurd narrative shortcuts that ended up undermining years of character development and sacrificing logic in favor of shocking moments. Yes, there was foreshadowing that Dany might go full Mad Queen, but we still needed a bit more build-up before she murdered thousands of innocent people. (In the finale she seemed less crazy and more misguided, which… why didn’t they just go that route to begin with? She still could have destroyed King’s Landing and inadvertently killed defenseless citizens because she thought she was doing the right thing, and it would have felt truer to the character, particularly her single-minded pursuit of the throne and her savior complex, but no, “She’s crazy because she’s a Targaryen” was apparently the only option. I digress.) The finale suffered from the same Cliffs Notes storytelling style. Imagine if Jon Snow had had to agonize over his decision over the course of several episodes — his loyalty to Dany and his love for her versus his understanding that she was hellbent on destruction and that many more lives would be lost with her as ruler of the Seven Kingdoms. Instead we get a scene in which Tyrion tries to reason with him while Jon insists that he will never betray Dany, and then the very next scene, in which he stabs her in the heart. It’s a moment that honestly could have worked with more time (and care and nuance and better writing), which is what makes the whole thing so frustrating.
The more I see Game of Thrones defenders say “there is no ending that would have made you happy,” the more frustrated I get. It’s not about being happy. If all I wanted were a satisfying conclusion for my favorite characters, then I would have been smugly content to see Sansa get a crown, and proclaimed the finale a masterpiece. (I… am really happy Sansa got a crown. It’s what she deserves. That’s not the point.) I just think there’s incredible audacity to using your finale to make a huge point about the importance of capital-S Storytelling above all else when you’ve botched the storytelling as badly as Benioff and Weiss did. By the end, it didn’t seem like they cared about the act of storytelling at all: they just wanted to hit the major plot points without much thought as to how. While it’s difficult for me to conceive of an organic way for Bran Stark to become king — Bran fucking Stark! — I’m fairly certain that is part of George R.R. Martin’s outline, or at least the one he gave them. (If he does end up finishing the books, I can see him doing some… heavy revisions on his original plan.) But the laughable way they got there, from Tyrion (a prisoner!) having way too much say to the absurd idea that Bran’s journey was more compelling than anyone else’s, did very little to help that moment land.
But whatever! It’s over. It’s done. However much frustration I felt at the ending of Game of Thrones was nothing compared to the relief I felt at the freedom to leave it all behind. Now I can focus my attention and emotional energy on how much I’ve been relating to Tinsley Mortimer on this season of The Real Housewives of New York City. Because honestly, this was never something I expected, and it’s a lot for me to process! On paper, Tinsley and I don’t have a lot in common. Also not on paper. She’s a socialite and one of the very first celebutantes, not to mention a beautiful blonde who would be horrified at my apartment, my fashion sense, and my savings account. And yet! There is a deep sadness to Tinsley, a feeling that she is not where she should be in life. She has friends, but she longs for a lasting romantic connection. And when she tries to express herself — yes, sometimes by bursting into tears wearing clown makeup — no one around her really gets it. They’re happy to comfort her, of course, but they don’t understand why she can’t just pull it together and smile, or they wish she could just stop being such a downer. Tinsley is not trying to be whiny, she’s just being honest, and listen, I am not Tinsley and I will never be Tinsley, but I watch Tinsley this season and all I can think is, it me.
I think Sonja meant well when she told Tinsley that Tins was too fixated on marriage and motherhood as the path to happiness. She probably could have phrased it better than she did — and with considerably more patience — but she’s not wrong that Tinsley’s obsession with locking down a man and starting a family might actually be holding her back. I’m not sure that tough love message is going to get through to Tinsley, someone who has spent her entire life internalizing this rather regressive and limiting picture of what the perfect life looks like, but I have hope. Delivery aside, I love when Sonja is the inadvertent voice of reason. She gets dismissed often, because she’ll go off on somewhat nonsensical tangents about toaster ovens or partying with JFK Jr. or touching the Morgan letters (you don’t do that!), but Sonja understands far more than she’s given credit for, and her lack of a filter often helps her verbalize these things better than others can. (Contrast her with Ramona, for example, whose lack of a filter usually just makes her an asshole.) It was Sonja who was able to articulate precisely why the other women were so frustrated with Luann: “I think the girls felt they were being treated like a fan.” None of Lu’s friends said that amid all their shit-talking, but that’s the crux of the issue here. Leave it to Sonja to summarize it so succinctly — and directly to the Countess’ face!
Speaking of cabaret, nothing is more relatable than all of the women struggling to tell Luann that they don’t want to get dragged to a cabaret show. This may not be a universally relatable experience, but if you live in New York and have too many friends in theater, you get it. When it comes to Lu’s own cabaret career, I really do see both sides of this conflict. Bethenny’s point that she’s a single mother who doesn’t want the lifestyle that Luann is once again embracing — fine premieres and fireworks, every single night — is a salient one. And I think Lu gets that, to some extent, while also wanting to celebrate her accomplishments with her closest friends. We are all the center of our own universes, and I think that innate selfishness is exacerbated by being on a reality show, where yes, “every day you’re living in is featured on TV.” (I’ll stop quoting “Chic, C’est La Vie” when it stops being relevant to the situation.) There’s a clear compromise to be found here, and I think they’ll get there. But again, reality show, which means more blow-up fights along the way. Let’s hope any screaming matches are at least early enough so Bethenny can still make it home in time to tuck her daughter in.
Housekeeping: I’m going out of town again on Wednesday, so this will be the only newsletter this week. Today’s post is public to make up for that, but also because everyone deserves to know who I think should win Tonys, right? As I continue to struggle to find time to balance writing High Drama with other responsibilities, I hope my subscribers will be patient with an occasionally erratic schedule. Also if you have thoughts on how to make things more manageable for busy weeks, I’m all ears. Would you prefer mini-posts that were more frequent, or super-sized posts that arrived less often? I’m not switching anything up for the time being, but your feedback is always appreciated. You can just tell me nice things, too. No pressure.