A play based on a photo memoir – Sharr White’s Pictures from Home is both utterly unique and very much in the tradition of American family drama. Professor of photography Larry Sultan (Danny Burstein) starts off analyzing photographs from his childhood in Brooklyn, and then begins visiting his parents in their San Fernando Valley home, taking pictures of them in their later years. His irascible father Irving (Nathan Lane) is a retired razor blade company executive, his mother Jean (Zoë Wanamaker) a still working real estate broker.
As you might be able to tell by the cast, Pictures from Home skews toward the comedic, with Lane in particular taking Irving’s cantankerous personality as an opportunity for laughs. Burstein’s is the most understated performance, as Larry doesn’t even know what he’s looking for through his camera lens. A better understanding of his parents’ “American Dream” perhaps? Or what that dream even means – is it at all a positive thing? Wanamaker is also terrific, especially in silent reactions to Irving and Larry’s conflicted relationship that speak volumes.
We see projections of Sultan’s pictures of the actual Irving and Jean, which gives added depth to our understanding of Larry’s search for meaning beneath these images of American family life. Director Bartlett Sher’s touch here is deft and light, mostly getting out of the way of White’s skillful writing and this magnificent cast. Pictures from Home is not a high-impact show; aside from Irving’s prickly comic outbursts, it is a very subtle piece of work, with Burstein’s layered portrayal of Larry carrying most of the thematic weight. Recommended.
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For more more about Jonathan Warman’s directing works, see jonathanwarman.wordpress.com.