Uma Thurman, who made her Off-Broadway debut a season back in CSC's production of The Misanthrope, is back on the New York stage, though you won't exactly be able to see her. Thurman has lent her voice to John Moran's latest work, Book of the Dead (Second Avenue), due to begin previews at the Public Theater's Martinson Hall on Nov. 14. The film actress will provide pre-recorded narration to the piece.
Book of the Dead, called "A John Moran Attraction," is a musical multimedia rumination on American spirituality in the digital age. The piece, which is called "genre-exploding" in its style, travels from "the sunlit optimism of Ancient Egypt, through a day in the life of New York City's Second Avenue...to a Tibetan vision of the afterworld."
The piece has three sections, the middle part being the most substantial. The action of this segment takes place on and about the East Village stretch of Second Avenue, specifically inside a McDonald's restaurant on that street. Moran has said that Second Avenue has specific personal connotations for him.
In a recent press preview held at the Public Theater, Moran explained his practice of collecting sound effects, from traffic to human voices, and then constructing them into tapestries of everyday noise—a sort of soundtrack composed of the buzz and babel of everyday life. In the preview, two actors, playing workers in the McDonald's, lip-synched parts of Moran's "composition," while going about their business, often repeating the same exchanges again and again from different audience perspectives.
Performing these pantomime rites will be Theo Bleckmann, Patricia R. Floyd, Darryl Gibson, Anthony Henderson, Michael Huston, Laine Setterfield, Cabell Tomlinson, David West, M. Drue Williams and Moran himself. Moran's past works include Matthew in the School of Life, The Hospital, The Jack Benny Program! and The Manson Family. This is Moran's first New York production in four years.
Book of the Dead officially opens on Nov. 20.
--By Robert Simonson