Dorothy Who? ‘The Woodsman’ Takes You to Oz

Dorothy Who? ‘The Woodsman’ Takes You to Oz

If you’ve ever wondered how the Tin Man came to be and why he doesn’t have a heart when Dorothy finds him, The Woodsman will give you the answers you seek.

Adapted from L. Frank Baum’s work, James Ortiz’s script takes us to a part of Oz we rarely frequent. There in East Oz, we see the terror caused by that land’s wicked witch. You know, she with the silver slippers and terrifying powers. But two citizens of Oz—a man with an axe (Will Gallacher) and a woman with a heart (Lauren Nordvig)—run away and start their own life together in the woods. A family of two becomes three, and a young boy (Ortiz) grows up to inherit the traits of his parents. Too soon alone, the boy, now a man of the woods, must make his own way in Oz.

What I find magical about The Woodsman is the minimal dialogue. A richly engaging plot unfolds, but with the exception of a monologue to start the show, most of the story is told through practical sound effects, violin music and a few songs. Words really aren’t needed to get the point across because you can clearly see and hear when someone’s in pain or falling in love. Finger snaps and flickering light makes for one heck of a crackling fire. Moving branches and moaning are an eerie forest come-to-life. My belief was so suspended, I took in every moment as if it was all real.

The puppet work in The Woodsman is quite powerful. (Ortiz also did the puppet and set design and he co-directed the show with Claire Karpen. You know, on top of writing and starring in it.) The wicked witch’s first appearance scared the bejesus out of me and later I was impressed by the life put into her by Amanda A. Lederer and Sophia Zukoski, the two actresses controlling her arms, head and breathing (oh that awful raspy wheezing!). And then there is the Woodsman. He is a man, flesh and blood, but magic and mayhem still find him and we discover how he becomes tin. The collaboration among the actors to take this man apart and reassemble him as a hollow metal being is a sight to behold.

Because the Tin Man had a heart, you see. He got one from his mother and it served him well. And he didn’t lose it. Not really. He gave it away. When he was a man, he took his heart and gave it to someone he loved. (This is when I tried to discreetly wipe away tears as they crept down my face. Thank you to everyone involved for such a beautiful sequence.) And then when he becomes tin, well…I had a heart once too, but it broke while watching this play. So much is gained in those woods, but so much is also taken.

Presented without intermission, The Woodsman is playing at New World Stages. I will be forever grateful for this play because the Tin Man’s origin story was something I never knew I needed. Get to Oz before Dorothy and don’t forget your oil can. You wouldn’t want to rust.


Really well written article! Based on that, I would love to see this play which I had heard of, but hadn't given much thought to before. Thank you!

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