Time Out New York, September 6-13, 2001, David Cote, Off- Off Color


"Heather Woodbury doesn't mind talking about the babble of voices in her head; in fact, she's amassed a loyal bicoastal following by letting them out quite regularly. When asked about multiple-personality disorder, the attractive, fair-haired "stand-up novelist"(as she dubs herself) deadpans back, 'They're actually diagnosed multiple personality order. I'm not sure if I have that, but I'd be nuts if I didn't do this.'

Nuts is actually what Woodbury's fans go when the actor, who dons personae as quickly as hats, gets onstage with a mike, a stool, and what seems like a small nation of characters struggling to have their say. For those who haven't seen her first performance novel What Ever (An American Odyssey in Eight Acts) think of the expansive social criticism of John Dospassos' U.S.A.. tempered by the loopy humanity of Lily Tomlin.

Woodbury's unique blend of rehearsed text and improvisation results in huge, serialized shows-the ten-hour What Ever involved 100 characters-and her new work-in-progress, Tale of 2Cities: A nAmerican Joyride on Multiple Tracls, unfolds on an equally broad canvas.

Inspired by nostalgia for a pregentrified Lower East Side (which, she says, has gone from 'boho' to 'faux-ho') and the Dodgers infamous move from Brooklyn to Los Angeles, Tale is a 12-track epic about childhoods lost and histories uprooted. Employing characters and locales on both coasts, the story charts the psychic devastation the Dodgers' desertion wrought upon Brooklyn fans, while also relating the fate of Chavez Ravine, in L.A., where a whole community of Mexican-Americans were forced to sell their houses to make room for the Dodgers' new stadium. Toggling between 1957 and the present, the piece swoops through cities and drops into the minds of a miniseries' worth of major and minor characters.

For the next ten weeks, Woodbury will present different installments in Spanish Harlem, Brooklyn, and Soho. A more finished workshop production is scheduled for the Public Theater in March. For now, Woodbury is enjoying the rough-draft stage, mixing scripted material and improv. Unlike novelists who work in isolation, Woodbury needs interaction with people to generate chapters. 'The audience,' she says, 'is my editor.'

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