"A new American play," Nathan Lane says with a certain amount of well-deserved reverence. "A nice phrase."
That play is Pictures From Home, an unexpected winter entry into the 2022-23 Broadway season, and the rare show that's opening cold (pun intended, given its January 13 preview date at Studio 54) on the Great White Way. But everyone involved is gold standard: three-time Tony winner Lane is joined in this Shar White family drama by much-loved Tony winner Danny Burstein and Olivier winner Zoë Wanamaker. Directing is a pre-Camelot Bartlett Sher.
White's unorthodox source material is an art book by photographer Larry Sultan, who spent a decade documenting his parents' life in the San Fernando Valley in the 1980s. Burstein plays Larry, with Lane as Irving, his disapproving father, and Wanamaker as his mother, Jean.
"It wasn't the part so much," Wanamaker explains, "it was the play. It's about family, and it's about being an artist over the course of 10 years, which is a long time to put your family under a microscope like that."
That element is pretty much what got everyone on board. "I've been doing readings of this for about a year and a half," says Burstein," and I thought the play was completely unique and beautiful. It's not just about the relationships with his two parents, but about the actual process of creating art."
Lane is more upfront, in his inimitable fashion, about the universality of it: "The whole theme of the play is parents and mortality, and you've got to face both and come to terms with them."
For Burstein, the production is a bonus. It's his sixth outing with director Sher, following "polar opposite" roles in Fiddler on the Roof and My Fair Lady and Women on the Verge of a Nervous Breakdown (to name but a few), his second with playwright White (after The Snow Geese just a few months shy of a decade ago), and his first with both Lane and Wanamaker, two of his heroes. "I saw Zoë in Loot 34 years ago and she was unbelievably sexy and smart," he recalls. "And then Nathan I've loved…since birth."
Lane feels the same way. "I know this is not interesting copy, but I love Danny like he's my son. I've known him a long time and he's just that talented. And, as I think everyone knows, he's just a really good guy with a huge heart."
Wanamaker, for her part, is, well, scared of them, which is not the emotion you'd expect from a titan of the West End stage. "They know the play. They did readings of it and they have it down," she exclaims. "I'm also dyslexic, so that doesn't help, but I feel self-conscious, because they know it and I don't. I'm embarrassed having my script in hand."
Not that it matters to her co-stars. "Every time she's come here to do something, she's gotten a Tony nomination," notes Lane. "It's been great. "Zoē is adorable, delightful, and an incredibly accomplished actress." Says Burstein, "She just dares you not to love her."
Love is the key word for Burstein. He feels it for his fellow actors, and he wants the audience to feel it for each other when they watch the play. "I hope that audience members go home and call the people that they love in their life and tell them that they love them," he says. "There's always so much more to a relationship than just the surface things that you say or don't say. There is great depth in the relationships of the characters, the son with his parents, and he loves them more than he ever realized. And that's the beautiful thing about this play."