BWW Reviews: THE WOODSMAN Is a Charming Night at the Theatre
James Ortiz's The Woodsman, now playing at 59 E 59, is a creative spin on the familiar classic of The Wizard of Oz with an atmosphere remincent of a pleasant combonation of Spring Awakening, Peter and the Starcatcher, and Into the Woods. The production marries pantomime, live music, some wicked puppetry, and live sound effects. Ortiz acts as writer, director, set and puppet designer, and star. Claire Karpen also acts as director.
From the get go, the environment of both the house and the stage enchants you: immediately, the audience enters the world of the show. There are branches from the stage to the ceiling and [successful] Pinterest project light fixtures. The stage is small and the set pieces are few. But it enhances the performance, which is mostly dependent on movement and pantomime.Lights come up on the entire cast. The audience is introduced to the land of Oz, which is under the rule of the wicked witch of the East aka the one Dorothy unknowingly crushes with a house. Ding dong. We are introduced to a young couple, who become the parents of our protagonist. He learns the tricks of the trade, in this case tree chopping, soon after his parents' unfortunate untimely end. Soon, however, he happens upon the witch's personal servant during her outing in the woods. The two soon find love, much to the witch's chagrin. She enchants The Woodsman's beloved axe to gradually destroy him limb by limb until he's more machine than man, becoming the infamous tin man. The cast included Benjamin Bass, Devin Dunne Cannon, Will Gallacher, Edward W. Hardy (violinist), Amanda A. Lederer, Aaron McDaniel, James Ortiz, Eliza Simpson, Meghan St. Thomas, and Carol Uraneck (also costume designer).
Puppetry is used to create the witch, her band of crows, an forest monster, and each limb of The Woodsman into his gradual transformation. The music is a combination of vocal harmonies and a lone fiddle player. The only dialogue is monologue preface at the top of the show by The Woodsman himself.
The production is creative, entertaining, haunting, and beautifully tragic. The performance schedule is Tuesday - Thursday at 7:15 PM; Friday - Saturday at 8:15 PM; and Sunday at 3:15 PM. Performances are at 59E59 Theaters (59 East 59th Street, between Park and Madison Avenues). Single tickets are $18 ($12.60 for 59E59 Members). To purchase tickets, call Ticket Central at (212) 279-4200 or go to www.59e59.org.