The Lower East Side's Angel Orensanz Foundation Center is fast becoming one of Off-Broadway's most popular new spaces. The former synagogue, built in 1850 by architect Alexander Saeltzer and modeled after the Cathedral of Cologne, was home to the Tyne Daly vehicle Mystery School last spring. Then, last summer, Mandy Patinkin performed his sold-out show Mamaloshen at the center, a production which subsequently transferred to Broadway's Belasco Theatre where it runs through this weekend.
Now, producer Gregory Mosher is planning a theatrical adaptation of James Joyce's short story "The Dead," to open at the Orensanz Center sometime in spring 1999. Playwright Richard Nelson (New England) will adapt the work, and Jack Hofsiss (The Elephant Man) will direct a cast of 16, Mosher told Playbill On-Line (Nov. 4). Exact dates and cast have not been determined.
"I think it's the most beautiful space I've seen in America," Mosher said. "We're going to put the audience all around the action. The setting will be simple: a platform, a table for dinner and a bed."
"The Dead" is taken from Joyce's famous short story collection, "The Dubliners." The story takes place on a winter's evening in Dublin. Two elderly sisters are holding an annual holiday dance and dinner in their house. Among the guests are Gretta and Gabriel Conroy. A song sung at the gathering revives Gretta buried memories of a boy she loved as a teenager and who died young. As Gabriel listens to Gretta relate the tale of her early love, he realizes a man he never knew has had a hold on his wife's imagination for years. Gabriel grapples with the resolution that the dead - even the unknown dead -- never release their hold on the living.
The story was turned into a film in 1987, starring Angelica Huston and Donal McCann, under the direction of John Huston (the film was Huston's last.) As in the film, the theatre piece will feature singing and dancing, though Mosher is reluctant to call The Dead a musical. For now, he refers to it as a "play with music." Shaun Davey, an Irish musician, has composed a dozen songs for the show. In one number, Gretta tells the story of her lost love. The final song of the evening maps the course of Joyce's story's famous last paragraph. The Dead will play a limited run and will not transfer, according to Mosher.