The 2013-14 Broadway season is only half over, but there have already been enough vibrant performances, ranging from excellent to dazzling, to fully stock the lead-actor-in-a-play category at the Tony Awards.
Performers in the second part of the season have their work cut out if they hope to get one of the five nominations.
The first-half highlight reel begins with Mark Rylance, who has already won Tonys in two of his three previous Broadway appearances (for "Boeing-Boeing" and "Jeru salem").
His performances in the rotating repertory of two all-male Shakespeare productions are thrilling for their cool daring.
His evil king in "Richard III" is all the more shivery because of his facade of bland good humor, while in "Twelfth Night," Rylance takes the lovestruck Countess Olivia into the startling realm of antic physical comedy.
Two other superlative English actors, Ian McKellen and Patrick Stewart, have teamed up delightfully in two absurdist plays, Beckett's "Waiting for Godot" and Pinter's "No Man's Land," also being performed in repertory.
Whether playing a couple of hobos, in Beckett, or two educated writers, in Pinter, they're perfectly attuned to the roles, and each other.
Continuing the veteran British actor theme, there's Roger Rees, portraying, with great warmth and humor, a stubborn, loyal Edwardian father in "The Winslow Boy."
Finally, an American: In the superb revival of Tennessee Williams' autobiographical "The Glass Menagerie," Zachary Quinto, probably best-known for playing the young Mr. Spock in the "Star Trek" films, gives a shatteringly alive performance as Tom, the narrator (and Williams stand-in). He's as emotionally powerful a Tom as I've ever seen.
Although no other performance category is as packed, there's been other award-quality work this fall.
It's hard to see Cherry Jones not receiving a nomination for actress-in-a-play for her magnificent portrayal of Amanda Wingfield, Tom's desperate mother, in "Menagerie."
Also vying for a spot in that category is Rachel Weisz, as a sexy and charming unfaithful wife in "Betrayal."
Her offstage husband, Daniel Craig, who plays her onstage husband, also does a strong job, but his path to a nomination seems much tougher.
There were fewer musicals than plays -- a balance that will be reversed beginning in January -- but one performance stands out.
Jefferson Mays ("I Am My Own Wife") has been given a delicious opportunity in "A Gentleman's Guide to Love and Murder": Eight roles, as members of a noble family who are sequentially bumped off, or otherwise expire. He takes full advantage, in a very funny tour- de-force performance.
Also in the lead-in-a-musical category, although he's a long shot because his show wasn't very good and has already closed, Eric Anderson was extremely good as a singing rabbi in "Soul Doctor."
Norbert Leo Butz does his usual good job in "Big Fish," but the show doesn't give him the same opportunity to shine as his past productions.
In the actress-in-a-musical category, Mary Bridget Davies deserves strong consideration for her all-out title portrayal in "A Night with Janis Joplin."
Along with the season's triumphant acting, there have also been disappointments, although a lot fewer.
The most notable are Mary Louise Parker's blurry performance in "The Snow Geese" and Ethan Hawke's underwhelming portrayal of Macbeth.
It's been, though, an unusually fertile time for great performances -- and, with the shows almost all running, you can still see them.
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