Metal Heart: Of Tin Men and Marionettes


Twice in one day I was so transported that I felt lost when reentering the “real” world. The first time was in an art exhibition in Chelsea. A trailer parked in a gallery surrounded by sound effects and filled with a world of marionettes made me believe, for example, that a concert was happening inside and that detached shoes propelled the action. If you start there, a day in Chelsea will be magical inside and out.

images from The Woodsman and The Marionette Maker

Discussed in this Review

The Woodsman
By JAMES ORTIZ. Music Composed by EDWARD W. HARDY. Lyrics by JEN LORING
New World Stages, 340 West 50th Street, NYC
Closes May 29th 2016

The Marionette Maker (2014)
Mixed media by Janet Cardiff and George Bures Miller
Luhring Augustine Gallery
31 West 24th Street, NYC
Closes June 11 2016

Then, if you then end the day at The Woodsman, you will be gloriously lost again. From the minute you enter the theater you know you are in for a unique experience from the sounds and sights already pervading the atmosphere. And when the play begins, you are plunged into a world that is strangely familiar yet utterly unusual.

It is familiar because it is based on the life of the Tin Man of Oz and how he came to be rusted solid when Dorothy found him. But the familiarity ends there. This is a very real and grown up world that is terrifying in its sounds and sights and the horrors of its residents.

Marionettes play a part here too and these “unreal” characters are intensely real and beautiful. The story is told mostly without words and although it is not possible to get minute details, the overview of the story works just fine. A wicked witch defies a true love which persists through the tortures of an enchanted ax. The poor man, who can neither stop loving or working at chopping down trees, replaces missing parts until there is nothing left but tin.

It is a timely, and timeless, message about how we  persist in the world despite all its horrors and fears, despite bad rulers and terrorists and environmental disaster, because we have no choice. We must go on and love is what makes it possible.

The problem for this poor play, which sadly closes on May 29th, is not a lack of intelligence or passion. I imagine too many people did not quite know if it was for kids or for adults, if it was a dance or mime, if it was puppetry or traditional theater. Because it is all of those things, I fear it was misunderstood. In many ways, it was chopped into the spectacular pieces that made it whole and the pieces ignored by many who would have loved it if only they had the chance and heart to get to know it.

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About JGB

Jenine Gordon Bockman is the founder and publisher of Literal Latte.

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