When it comes to original plays produced on Broadway, the new decade has begun a lot better than the old one. The 1999-2000 and 2000-01 seasons managed only five or six newbies, compared to the dozen new plays that have graced the current legit session. In the past 10 years, only one season, 2003-04, saw more new works, and those 13 included such short-lived duds as “Six Dance Lessons in Six Weeks,” “The Oldest Living Confederate Widow Tells All” and “Prymate” — all major contenders for the brick walls of Joe Allen restaurant.
The 2009-10 season easily beats 2003-04 in the quality department, and, if they so desired, the Tony Awards committee could look no further than American scribes to put together an entirely credible list of four nominated works from the titles “In the Next Room” by Sarah Ruhl, “Next Fall” by Geoffrey Nauffts, “Race” by David Mamet, “Red” by John Logan, “A Steady Rain” by Keith Huff, “Superior Donuts” by Tracy Letts and “Time Stands Still” by Donald Margulies. At this close glance, one would have to go back to the 1984-85 season (“As Is,” “Biloxi Blues,” “Hurlyburly,” “Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom”) to find equal breadth and depth from a list of nommed American plays.
Not that the Brits and Irish have exactly abdicated this year’s Tony race. But in both cases, the playwrights have chosen American subjects: Lucy Prebble’s “Enron” arrives with great London buzz, and thanks to a 19-member ensemble, which has been recast with Yanks, the production could turn into the legit event of the spring season. “A Behanding in Spokane” also looks to be a contender, and one that couldn’t be more international. An Irish playwright (Martin McDonagh) and director (John Crowley) chose Broadway for their world premiere, and cast the play with three Hollywood stars (Christopher Walken, Anthony Mackie and Sam Rockwell).
Let the voting begin.