Nathan Lane, Danny Burstein, Zoë Wanamaker, More Unravel the Mysteries of PICTURES FROM HOME
The process of taking a photobook and turning it into a play is no easy feat, but that’s exactly what Sharr White has done with Larry Sultan’s Pictures From Home. The play, now in previews at Studio 54 on Broadway and opening February 9, isn’t focused on recreating the book on stage, however. It’s more about discovering artistry and family across generations.
The idea for the eponymous Pictures From Home was sparked at LACMA, L.A.’s beloved art museum, which had an exhibit of Sultan’s work. “It was this magnificent, probing, profound, and kind of hostile discussion about art and image and ownership of image. And I just thought, “I have to know more about this whole thing,” says White of a gallery that focused on the photobook.
Nearly a decade later, three of Broadway’s most respected actors are performing in White’s play. Danny Burstein is Larry, while Nathan Lane is Irv and Zoë Wanamaker is Jean.
“I’m really, really proud of this play,” says Burstein, who won a Tony Award for his most recent Broadway performance as Harold Ziegler in Moulin Rouge! The Musical. The star says he’s always looking for new roles and doesn’t like to repeat himself, so stepping into Larry’s shoes was the perfect next step. Unsurprisingly, he’s already tapped into the artist’s frame of mind.
“[Larry] knew that there was some important reason he had to go and take pictures of his parents,” explains Burstein of the project that would become the photobook Pictures From Home. “He not only took pictures of his parents, but he also interviewed them… it’s honest and funny and heartbreaking and beautiful.”
Audiences will see the play is using those real photos that Burstein is talking about, but Nathan Lanes says they’re not trying too hard to replicate an exact copy when it comes to the characters. “They had a very specific look and would take 6 hours and prosthetics—no one has time for that,” says the three-time Tony winner.
For Wanamaker, herself a four-time Tony nominee, the process of discovering Jean was found in parts of the book that aren’t in the script. Those little details, simultaneously intimate and extraneous, have helped her create a character rather than an imitation. “I can’t be her. We can’t be [the Sultans]. I don’t want to—I just want to give a flavor of them.” Still, there are moments that are unavoidable, like Jean’s exasperation with Larry for taking photos all the time. “They don't get it, right? And I understand [her]. He’s in the fucking way all the time. It’s really interesting…what did Michelangelo’s mother think while he was painting dead bodies?”
Since it’s not about recreating these real-life figures to a tee, the play ended up being about artistic process itself—both Sultan’s exploration and the way theatre can be made. “What’s fascinating is that it’s a very different way of telling a story. It interacts with the images, and it is a memory play in a way, but it's also an argument about art and about how we represent [ourselves],” says director Bartlett Sher.
Ultimately, Pictures From Home is an intergenerational show about art and family, says White. “I feel like it deals with some really base questions that we're all searching for together.” The playwright adds it will speak to all ages, whether a patron is in their soul-seeking twenty-somethings to new parents in their thirties to older folks whose kids are now fully-formed adults. “It’s all overlaid at once.”
For more information and tickets, visit PicturesFromHomeBroadway.com.