First-Time Tony Nominee: Kristine Nielsen blends humor and heart in ‘Vanya and Sonia and Masha and Spike’

Kristine Nielsen in "Vanya and Sonia and Masha and Spike."

Kristine Nielsen in “Vanya and Sonia and Masha and Spike.”

Kristine Nielsen has been nominated for Best Actress in a Leading Role in a Play for her heartfelt and humorous role as Sonia in Christopher Durang’s Vanya and Sonia and Masha and Spike.

Nielsen has had a prolific acting career on Broadway and has appeared in productions including The Iceman Cometh, The Greenbird, A Streetcar Named Desire, Dangerous Liaisons and Bloody Bloody Andrew Jackson.  Nielsen worked with Durang before in the off-Broadway productions of Betty’s Summer Vacation and Miss Witherspoon.  In addition, Vanya and Sonia and Masha and Spike is not Nielsen’s first time working with co-star Sigourney Weaver either. Nielsen appeared both off-Broadway with Weaver in Crazy Mary and in Weaver’s television mini-series Political Animals.

In Vanya and Sonia and Masha and Spike, Nielsen takes on the role of Sonia, who has spent her whole life living in the family home with her brother Vanya.  As Sonia, Nielsen exhibits exquisite comic timing as she goes from mood to mood throughout the play, and perhaps more importantly, she is perfectly in-synch with her fellow cast members, particularly David Hyde Pierce, who plays Sonia’s similarly homebound brother Vanya.  The combination of Pierce’s wit and wry observation and Nielsen’s wide-eyed performance creates a perfect combination of humor, which when Weaver and Magnussen are added to the mix, becomes an absolute masterpiece.

The race for Best Leading Actress in a Play is a tight one, and Nielsen will have a difficult time edging out the strong performances of Cicely Tyson (The Trip to Bountiful) and Holland Taylor (Ann), but the warm reception that audiences have given Vanya and Sonia and Masha and Spike, which has picked up several nominations including this one, may be enough to propel Nielsen into the winning position.

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