Juliette Binoche, Betrayal
Betrayal marked the Broadway stage debut of this film actress, whose silver screen credits include "The Unbearable Lightness of Being," "The English Patient" and "Chocolat." However, she previously won acclaim for her 1998 London stage performance in Pirandello's Naked.
Linda Lavin, The Tale of the Allergist's Wife
The three-decade-plus Broadway veteran found the comic role of her career in the constantly kvetching Upper East Side matron, Margorie Taub—a role written for her by playwright Charles Busch. Lavin won a Tony Award for Neil Simon's Broadway Bound and was nominated for The Diary of Anne Frank and Last of the Red Hot Lovers. Significant Off-Broadway credits include Death Defying Acts and Little Murders .
Mary-Louise Parker, Proof
Parker received unanimous praise for her portrayal of the moody, capricious Catherine, the mourning daughter of a mad genius mathematician. It was only the latest in a string of celebrated performances, including those in Bus Stop and Prelude to a Kiss, both on Broadway, and Off-Broadway's Communicating Doors, How I Learned to Drive and Four Dogs and a Bone.
Jean Smart, The Man Who Came to Dinner
Comic actress Smart has popped up Off-Broadway every few years over the last decade, in such plays as Jon Robin Baitz's The End of the Day and Fit to Be Tied by Nicky Silver, both at Playwrights Horizons. This was the "Designing Women" star's first Broadway appearance in some years.
Leslie Uggams, King Hedley II
Uggams won the Tony Award as Best Actress for Hallelujah, Baby!. Her other Broadway credits include Her First Roman, Jerry's Girls, Blues in the Night and Anything Goes (Lincoln Center revival). Analysis: Proof director Daniel Sullivan quipped at the Lucille Lortel Awards ceremony that Mary-Louise Parker signed on for the David Auburn play because it was the project that presented the best chance of winning her awards. How right she was. So far, she has netted a Lortel, Outer Critics Circle Award, Drama Desk Award and an Obie. There's little doubt that she will add a Tony to that collection come June 3. Her only real competition is Lavin, whose performance in Allergist's Wife is arguably as towering as Parker's in Proof. But Lavin has won before, while Parker hasn't. And drama will always beat out comedy in the world of awards.
—By Robert Simonson