January 20, 2015

Using words is dangerous in this eastern corner of Oz, yet sound is everywhere: the mournful music of a violin, the rasp of a witch, the spooky wind of the woods. A movement piece with puppets, James Ortiz’s The Woodsman is an elemental reimagining of L. Frank Baum’s world of Oz. The spectacle is handmade, infused with breath and light. This is the Tin Man’s back story: how a regular human named Nick Chopper (Mr. Ortiz) came to be a rusting pile of metal in need of a heart. The story, laid out in a spare spoken prologue in this largely wordless piece, involves the witch who rules this part of Oz. Her only apparent vulnerability is an aversion to sunlight. When Nick falls in love with her barefoot slave Nimmee (an appealing Eliza Simpson), the witch schemes to prevent their union. She enchants an ax to cut off chunks of Nick, one by one. With prosthetics to replace them, soon he is wholly made of tin. Without a heart, he can no longer love.