9:37: Whoopi Goldberg, wearing what I can only describe as the top half of a clown costume (but without the pom-poms), introduces the Best Play nominees by describing what they're about, while we see a representation of the set, followed by a quick clip of a taped performance. With plays, unlike with musicals, the production and the writing are not separated; it's all one award. (And they're lucky to be mentioned on TV at all. We could be using this time to promote Wicked!)
9:42: Gabriel Byrne, presenting the award for Director of a Play, is so low-energy he's coming off as sarcastic. I was actually in the Tonys audience the night this award was won by a woman for the very first time, and I am very sorry to say it was only 10 years ago. (The winner was Garry Hynes, who directed The Beauty Queen of Leenane, and who may have tricked the voters with her ambiguous first name.) Tonight another woman is joining that club: Anna D. Shapiro grabs the award for directing August: Osage County, an oversized ensemble drama with three acts and lots of emotional peaks to navigate. She could certainly have used a more flattering gown, but I'm sure nobody was volunteering to dress her. That's just one of the big differences between the Tonys and the Oscars.
9:47: Whoopi does another "Don't forget all the other, staler musicals on Broadway!" number, this one in full Spamalot drag. After the ads, we see a little promo for Mamma Mia! Makes you feel great about the state of serious musical theater, doesn't it?
9:53: Were you afraid Mary-Louise Parker wouldn't get a chance to do something odd? Here she is, looking all too-cool-for-school as she announces the nominees for Leading Actor in a Play. She proves herself a total theater dork by calling Macbeth, for which Patrick Stewart is nominated, "The Scottish Play." This is the only category in which I haven't seen a single nominee. Laurence Fishburne is supposedly great in Thurgood, but I haven't seen it, because, well...it sounds really, really, really boring. Here's the setup: "Thurgood Marshall gives a speech about his life." Dynamic! Like a visit to the Hall of Presidents, but with just one character! I think I'm going to wait for the book on tape. Anyway, Brit Mark Rylance wins this one for Boeing-Boeing, and once onstage he gives the evening's most bizarre acceptance speech, going on, calmly and at some length, about what a person should wear in various situations. At one point the camera cuts to Mary McCormack, his pretty young costar, whose mouth is hanging open as she shakes her head in utter bewilderment. The equally bewildered audience sees this on the big screens, and there is a burst of laughter. This speech is truly bizarre, and I bet it didn't sell any tickets to Boeing-Boeing, either. Next year, when they move this award to the non-televised portion of the evening, remember that Mark Rylance ruined it for everyone.