PICTURES FROM HOME
February 20, 2023
There was a time when the host of a dinner party would pull out the slide wheel carousel or 8 millimeter film projector and entertain guests with home movies of vacations. For some, that screamed "time to go," for others--generally family members--it conjured warm memories of beaches edging Florida or camping trips in the Adirondacks.
The scrapbook lives of a family pinned to the pages of Larry Sultan's photo memoir are brought to life in Pictures From Home written by Sharr White and playing at Studio 54.
The son, Larry Sultan (Danny Burstein) steps into the starring role as family archivist. Determined to retrieve all the family photos, slides and films, Larry, a professional photographer, finds comfort in the celluloid traces of his family. Captured on film is the very, very complicated psychological infrastructure tinting his family.
Converted to a three-person play, Larry is conflicted about the passage of time, the ultimate loss of his parents and subsequently, cherished parts of his life. Once a charismatically urbane salesman, Larry's father, Irving (Nathan Lane), dominates the family and all his one-liners. Spot-on representation of traditional marriages in the 1950's and 1960's, positions the mother, Janet (Zoe Wannamaker) just a step below her husband, his handmaiden and the family negotiator.
Visually, the projected photographs (by 59 Productions) recall the halcyon days of martinis and sports cars, parties by the pool and the belief in youthful invincibility. A handsome man, Irving thrives in the spotlight of his own making. Subsequently, Lane revels in nailing the majority of the witty lines, spitting them out with the timing of a Swiss watch tuned to the loudest laugh track.
Determined to unearth all the archival visual materials in order to help decode his life, Larry also manufactures historical incidents never recorded. All the "performed" photographs place Irving in the center of the family's universe, which is more a male child's view of his father than reality. In truth, when Irving prematurely loses his job at Schick, Janet becomes a super real estate agent and single-handedly finances their lives.
Despite her gumption, securing a real estate license then beating out the competition, Janet's depicted as a ditzy, yet somehow grounded comforter. Constantly losing her glasses or misplacing her bag, Janet works to keep the peace between the bellicose Irving and Paul who, despite his age, is desperately seeking his father's acceptance.
Adeptly directed by Bartlett Sher, occasionally, the photographs speak more eloquently than the text.
EYE ON THE ARTS, NY -- Celia Ipiotis