By Aubrey Blaine
It begins and ends with a narrator, evoking memories of one’s own childhood and one’s relationships with one’s parents. That narrator is Danny Burstein (Tony Award winner for “Moulin Rouge”) and the parents depicted on the Studio 54 stage are Nathan Lane (3 Time Tony Award winner) and Zoe Wanamaker (4 time Tony Award nominee and 2 time Olivier Award winner). The play is “Pictures From Home”, adapted by playwright Sharr White from a photo memoir by Larry Sultan and you will want to purchase the book after seeing the play. But go into the theatre, unaware of the memoir, as most theatregoers will, and you will be surprised, engrossed, haunted by personal memories and recollections that will make you reflective of your past and give you perspective about your present.
One thing is certain: you will never feel the same way about grilling hamburgers again with your family. But even vegetarians will delight in that scene. There are so many wonderful moments in this play: funny, truthful, bittersweet, melancholy, and powerful that one hesitates to single any particular one out, but if you don’t relate to this undeniably affecting and mesmerizing production, the loss is yours. Bartlett Sher, who did such a first-rate staging of “To Kill a Mockingbird”, has integrated the real life of photos of the Sultans with care and precision; he has also extracted a trio of memorable performances. Nathan Lane is at his best (and they don’t get any better than Lane), balancing the humor and pathos of the paterfamilias with grace and subtlety; Danny Burstein reminds us that he is one of our finest actors and guides us through his journey with impeccable humanity; and Zoë Wanamaker is both crusty and heartfelt as the mother who refuses to take sides, sometimes, between father and son. Almost every production on Broadway these days receives a standing ovation, but “Pictures From Home” received one of the most genuine standing ovations I can recall, interspersed with cheers and bravos. Most deserved!