The only connection of Studio 54, the disco nightclub that opened in the late seventies, and the Broadway theater it now houses are the doors, and the building of course, and a disco ball which I managed not to spot. And my brain which now regresses to my disco dancing days in New York City (Manhattan).
But I’m thrust into present time when my purse is searched and I pass through a metal detector to enter the theater. I’m already entertained with the architectural details.
I’m here to see Pictures From Home by Sharr White with Nathan Lane. I know nothing about the play, nothing about the photographer, Larry Sultan, whose project of photographing and exploring his parents’ life the play is based on. But I am a fan of Nathan Lane, and this is his 25th Broadway play.
I bought my tickets on Today Tix, an app that allows you to get Rush (day of) Tickets at a deeply discounted price. I expect a really crappy (excuse the highly technical adjective) seat, yet it ends up being in the Loge with an unobstructed, wonderful view. I’m lucky enough that the next three seats adjacent to mine are empty so I can maintain a distance from fellow seat neighbor and cross my legs. When handed my Playbill I am told that the play is 1 hour and 50 minutes long with no intermission. I’m already impressed. Only three actors, mostly on stage at the same time… that’s a heck of a lot of memorizing to do.
As I read Sharr White’s words: “This play is my exploration of Larry’s exploration. But take one further step with me: it also represents these extraordinary actors, along with our director, interpreting that exploration: Larry’s pictures, his parents’ images, this play, all further interpreted by you.” I, the analyzer, the one that delves deep into what seems simple things and actions, am already hooked.
And the lights dim and people are silenced and it all begins. I’m unprepared to give a truly educated review of what happened on stage even when this is my world, or was. Yet I will do so, in the same manner as I “rate” wine. Did my palate enjoy it? Does it have any undertones? Do I want another sip? And the answer to all is yes. Oh yes.
The actors were absolutely superb. Aside from Nathan Lane, Danny Burstein was perfect in his portrayal of his father, simple in his way, more complex than the character would ever think of himself, Zoë Wanamaker, so perfect in her role that even a small glitch in the lines suited the character. I was drawn in, immersed in the life of a grown, successful man digging through his lens and his actions into his parents’ day to day life and past. I was going through my dad’s 8mm films once and they revealed so much. Wish I had my parents alive then to further confirm what I sensed. How lucky for this photographer that he had the opportunity to talk, even quarrel with them, and just delve into their beings when they were still alive. Perhaps finding himself along the way. Creating with his staged photos a reality. Truth or fiction. The photos are masterful either way. His angst is noticeable in the pursuit of his never ending project. I left the theater having been a part of that family. I was moved. I also laughed, maybe a bit awkwardly, because some things hit a bit close to home. And thankful, grateful that witnessing it impulsed me to write again, an activity that I love almost as much as acting.
I leave my happy place, the theater (second only to when I am on a film set doing my thing) and am reminded of another life when, as I cross the street, the SAG/AFTRA Foundation building is lit up. Robin Williams’ name is spotted as well on a building. His name always brings a second of sadness to me. I’m on 54th Street and need to get back to Penn Station on 33rd Street to take the LIRR (Long Island Railroad) back to where I live. I was going to grab an Uber but I decide to walk back experiencing this city that never sleeps. All lights are on. Eighth Ave. is crowded at 10 pm, New Yorkers walking fast and purposely and tourists of all nationalities slowly absorbing the vibe Manhattan gives off. I pass many bars and only then do I regret not being with someone to share a drink and thoughts. Then I pass a hotel and the feeling passes for it reminds me that in the anonymity of a hotel and the solitude a room provides when traveling I do not feel alone. I pass crazies, and homeless people (one giving a dollar to another), cops, and dogs being walked and I bask in memories of my life here. New York, Manhattan in particular, energizes me, yet it also crushes me, steps on me, leaves me with no breath and resuscitates me. I don’t believe any other city can elicit so much in such a brief span of time.
I’ve reached my destination just in time to jump into my train and depart. It’s been a good day.