By Andrea Towers
Updated June 04, 2014 at 07:00 PM EDT
Joan Marcus

As we look ahead to the Tony Awards on Sunday, June 8, EW takes a closer look at this season’s nominated selection of new musicals, plays, and revivals, all of which will be competing for Broadway’s highest honor. Today, we dive into this year’s nominees for Best Play.

Act One

Opened: March 20, 2014

Closing: June 15, 2014

Starring: Tony Shalhoub, Andrea Martin, Santino Fontana, Beatrice Kaufman, Frieda Fishbein

Directed by: James Lapine

Written by: James Lapine, based on the memoir by Moss Hart

Synopsis: Act One chronicles the life of Moss Hart (1904-61) and his growth from a poor kid interested in theater to a wildly successful playwright, who wrote (or co-wrote, with George S. Kaufman) classics such as Merrily We Roll Along and You Can’t Take It With You.

EW’s review: “Eccentricity comes easily to Shalhoub after his award-winning eight-season stint as an OCD-afflicted detective on TV’s Monk. The actor is so quirkily charming as Kaufman — and such a good match for Fontana as his high-strung extroverted writing partner — that it’s almost a letdown when he morphs back into Moss.” B- –Melissa Rose Bernardo

Tony nominations: 5 — Best Play; Best Leading Actor in a Play (Tony Shalhoub); Best Scenic Design of a Play (Beowulf Boritt); Best Costume Design of a Play (Jane Greenwood); and Best Sound Design of a Play (Dan Moses Schreier)

Odds on winning: It has an outside chance.

NEXT: All The Way

Evgenia Eliseeva

All The Way

Opened: March 6, 2014

Closing: June 29, 2014

Starring: Bryan Cranston

Directed by: Bill Rauch

Written by: Robert Schenkkan

Synopsis: A behind-the-scenes look at Lyndon B. Johnson (Cranston) during his first year as president and his push to pass landmark civil rights legislation.

EW’s review: “While Cranston may never pass for LBJ’s doppelgänger, he embraces the role’s showmanship and physicality with gusto, close-talking and buttonholing and tie-grabbing to make his case. Even Walter White would be intimidated.” B+ –Thom Geier

Tony nominations: 2 — Best Play and Best Leading Actor in a Play (Bryan Cranston)

Odds on winning: The likely victor.

NEXT: Casa Valentina

Casa Valentina

Opened: April 23, 2014

Closing: June 29, 2014

Starring: Reed Birney, Mare Winningham, Patrick Page, John Cullum, Gabriel Ebert, Lisa Emry, Tom McGowan, Larry Pine, Nick Westrate

Directed by: Joe Mantello

Written by: Harvey Fierstein

Synopsis: The year is 1960, and there’s a group of heterosexual men in the Catskills who enjoy dressing up as women. When they’re forced to decide if they want their playful past time to go public or not, problems erupt.

EW’s review: “Fierstein’s explosive resolution feels rushed and less authentic to the characters than the Donna Reed wigs on their heads. Still, the most lasting impressions of Casa Valentina are good ones: Fierstein’s meticulous dialogue, Joe Mantello’s smooth and confident direction, the cast’s flawless performances. And if the characters teach us anything, it’s that confidence and charm can cover a multitude of imperfections.” B+ –Adam Markovitz

Tony nominations: 4 — Best Play; Best Performance by a Featured Actor in a Play (Reed Birney); Best Performance by a Featured Actress in a Play (Mare Winningham); and Best Costume Design of a Play (Rita Ryack)

Odds on winning: It’s a long shot.

Mare Winningham on playing Rita, the wife of one cross-dresser and den mother to the group: “It’s a real special experience to be involved in a new play. And the fact that it’s Harvey [Fierstein], who specializes in putting a spotlight on marginalized people. And who knew that there were heterosexual cross-dressing communities? I just didn’t know such a thing existed. And Harvey has unfolded this story where these beautiful men want to be women, and Joe Mantello has assembled this cast of mega-talented actors who spent five weeks just finding their inner woman and bringing it out, and so for me to be, as Harvey says, the ‘G.G.,’ the genetic girl, the genuine girl, and to be someone who the audience kind of comes to the play because she’s sort of their eyes…it’s a special place to be.”

NEXT: Mothers and Sons

Mothers and Sons

Opened: March 24, 2014

Starring: Tyne Daly, Frederick Weller, Bobby Steggert, Grayson Taylor

Directed by: Sheryl Kaller

Written by: Terrence McNally

Synopsis: A mother (Daly) pays a surprise visit to the ex-partner (Weller) of her late son, who is now married to another man (Steggert) and has a young son (Taylor). Challenged to face how society has changed, she finally sees the life her son could have experienced.

EW’s review: “After Terrence McNally’s last two comic misfires — the theatrical homage And Away We Go and the opera ode Golden Age — it’s a pleasure to see the playwright return to form (and to Broadway) with his intimate portrait of a modern family.” B –Melissa Rose Bernardo

Tony nominations: 2 — Best Play and Best Performance by a Leading Actress in a Play (Tyne Daly)

Odds on winning: A long shot.

NEXT: Outside Mullingar

Outside Mullingar

Opened: Jan. 23, 2014

Closed: March 16, 2014

Starring: Brian F. O’Byrne, Debra Messing, Dearbhla Molloy, Peter Maloney

Directed by: Doug Hughes

Written by: John Patrick Shanley

Synopsis: Introverted misfits Anthony (O’Bryne) and Rosemary (Messing) are pushing 40. Anthony has lived his entire life on a cattle farm in rural Ireland with next-door neighbor Rosemary pining for him for years. She vows to create a connection between them despite the land feuds that loom between their families.

EW review: “Messing acquits herself well in her Broadway debut. Though she seems ill at ease through the first half of the show, too aware of the audience and of the effort to keep up her accent, she settles in toward the end when she’s able to deploy her gifts for physical comedy honed on eight seasons of Will & Grace. O’Byrne, a Shanley veteran who originated the priest role in his 2004 play Doubt, is on surer footing throughout, with a soulfulness borne of a thousand petty (and not so petty) slights.” B –Thom Geier

Tony nominations: 1 — Best Play

Odds on winning: A distant long shot.

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