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The Woodsman: Theater review by Raven Snook
[Note: After successful earlier runs at 59E59, including the one reviewed here, The Woodsman has now reopened for an open run at New World Stages.]
Even before writer, codirector, set- and puppet-designer star James Ortiz asks the audience to “imagine” in a brief prologue, we’ve already been thrust into a dark corner of Oz, where gnarled branches loom and unsettling noises signal danger. Strangemen & Co.’s immersive and practically wordless adaptation of the writings of L. Frank Baum uses low-tech stagecraft like evocative Bunraku puppets (the wicked witch is chilling), haunting vocal sound effects and a lone violinist (composer Edward W. Hardy) to tell the backstory of Dorothy’s cherished Tin Man (Ortiz), once a mortal axman who sacrificed an arm and a leg and a whole lot more in the name of love. Emotions are communicated through simple gestures, grunts and glances, not one wasted. Touching on mortality, futility and fate, The Woodsman is a grown-up fairy tale that proves happiness is a worthwhile goal, even if it doesn’t last ever after.—Raven Snook
The Woodsman. 59E59 (Off Broadway). By James Ortiz. Based on the writings of L. Frank Baum. Directed by Ortiz and Claire Karpen. With ensemble cast. Running time: 1hr. No intermission.
Average User Rating
3.7 / 5
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The Woodsman is the best piece of theater I have ever seen. Besides the AMAZING puppets and TALENTED actors, the GORGEOUS music by Edward W. Hardy is the best part of the play. I just bought The Woodsman Album on iTunes and guess what... IT IS THE COMPOSER PERFORMING THE MUSIC HIMSELF!!! The music took me back to the haunting woods I was in watching this 90 minute show. Just incredible. I can't wait to see what this young composer does next!
The first words out of my mouth when the lights came up after this show were "That was GORGEOUS." The visual and auditory aesthetics of this show are just breathtaking. It ended and I realized that I had just been watching enthralled for over an hour with almost no words spoken. This show is absolutely worth watching.
Absolutely recommend this show. It is at once dark and moving. The cast works together like a breathing living organism and through their movement and voice create an 'experience' that is breathtaking and thought provoking. It is something that will stay with you so if you can see it, do not miss it. Absolutely beautiful.