Laura Linney theatre roles we love

Ahead of her return to Broadway in Summer, 1976, discover highlights from Linney's decades-long theatre career that show why she's an actress for all seasons.

Joe Dziemianowicz
Joe Dziemianowicz

Laura Linney has flip-flopped between stage and screen like a steady heartbeat for 30 years. Along the way she’s won four Emmys and two Golden Globes, and she's been up for three Academy Awards and five Tonys, among other prizes. Whoever she’s playing, a consistency in her acting implies an unspoken message, one that matches the title of the 2000 movie that brought her first Oscar nod: You Can Count On Me.

A Juilliard-trained actress, Linney has said the theatre is her happy place. In her latest Broadway outing, the new play Summer, 1976, she stars opposite Emmy and Tony nominee Jessica Hecht as one of two very different women who form an unlikely friendship. Performances start in April – spring, not summer. No matter. Linney’s an actress for all seasons. Take a look back through her stage highlights before seeing her return to the big stage.

Six Degrees of Separation

Linney was five years out of Brown University when she made her Broadway debut in John Guare’s play in 1991. She took over the role of Tess, the rebellious, take-charge daughter of a rich New York art dealer and his wife duped by a charismatic con man. The show put Linney one degree of separation from Anthony Rapp, who played the role of Ben on stage and in the film version and now is starring off Broadway in Without You.

Sight Unseen

Linney played a confrontational German art critic in the 1992 Off-Broadway premiere of Donald Margulies’s drama about a hotshot artist who reconnects with his first love. Linney won a coveted Theatre World Award – and forged a lasting link to the play and the writer. When Sight Unseen moved to Broadway in 2004 under the direction of Daniel Sullivan (with whom she's collaborated many times since), Linney played the artist’s former flame and scored Best Actress nods at the Tony and Drama Desk Awards.

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Chekhov's plays

Linney’s versatility and ability to portray contemporary and period characters – like Wendy Byrde in Ozark and Abigail Adams in John Adams, respectively – keep her busy. In the 1992 Broadway revival of The Seagull, she played the naive Nina in a cast that included Ethan Hawke as Konstantin and Tony winner Danny Burstein as the workman Yakov.

In Roundabout Theatre Company’s 2000 Broadway revival of Uncle Vanya, staged by Funny Girl director Michael Mayer, she starred as the alluring and mysterious Yelena Andreyevna.

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Hedda Gabler

Linney was again in period mode – with the frock to match – in the 1994 Broadway revival of Ibsen’s Hedda Gabler featuring Kelly McGillis in the title role. Linney played the unhappily married, convention-flouting Thea Elvsted. Variety’s review called out Linney’s turn as the “best performance,” adding that her Thea “conveys the fierce bravery Hedda lacks and sets out to destroy.”

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The Crucible

Linney earned her first Tony Award nomination for this 2002 revival of Arthur Miller’s American classic drama, directed by Richard Eyre. She played Elizabeth Proctor, the virtuous but flawed farm wife accused of witchcraft, opposite Liam Neeson as her unfaithful husband. The two stars would later share billing in a series of movies – Love Actually, Kinsey, and The Other Man, also directed by Eyre.

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Les Liaisons Dangereuses

Ooh la la, Marquise de Merteuil! Linney let her dark side shine when she starred as the cavalier carnal manipulator in Roundabout’s 2002 Broadway revival of Christopher Hampton’s sexy drama set in 1780s France.

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Time Stands Still

In 2010, Linney earned her third Tony nod playing Sarah, a New York photojournalist, in yet another drama by Donald Margulies and directed by Daniel Sullivan. Sarah thrives on capturing the scars of war, which creates tension with her reporter boyfriend. “You can call my pictures beautiful,” she tells a friend’s girlfriend. “I think they’re beautiful. But then I’m their mother.”

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The Little Foxes

Linney had the cunning idea to trade off the star part of voracious Regina Giddens and the supporting role of timid Birdie Hubbard with Cynthia Nixon every night at this 2017 revival of Lillian Hellman’s dark family drama. Sullivan, directing Linney once again, liked the idea, as did Manhattan Theatre Club, where Linney often performs. Linney was nominated for a Best Actress Tony Award and won the same prize at the Drama Desks.

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My Name Is Lucy Barton

Linney made her London theatre debut in this 2018 one-woman play, which Rona Munro adapted from the Elizabeth Strout novel about a writer’s relationship with her estranged mother. The city was new, but the director was familiar: Richard Eyre. Linney reprised her star turn on Broadway, scoring a Best Actress Tony nomination and a Drama Desk win for Best Solo Performance.

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Summer, 1976

Linney joins Jessica Hecht and reunites once more with director Daniel Sullivan for this new play by Proof author David Auburn, set a meaningful 200 years after the U.S. was formed. Linney plays nonconformist Diana; Hecht plays naive Alice. A friendship and changes emerge.

Originally published on

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