Woody's Order! Review - Making Lemonade

Playwright Ann Talman stars in her own theater piece when the Ensemble Studio Theatre/LA presents the West Coast premiere of WOODY’S ORDER! Her long and varied career has spanned Broadway, films, and television – with lots of stage roles thrown in for good measure. Ann Talman played Elizabeth Taylor’s daughter in “The Little Foxes” on Broadway. Taylor – along with lots of others – couldn’t help but remark what a “look-alike” for Taylor’s younger “National Velvet” self Ann turned out to be. To add the career cherry on top of her current venture, her documentary short, WOODY’S ORDER!, will soon have its world premiere in the Tribeca International Film Festival

Ann Talman - Photo courtesy of Ann Talman

Woody is a nonverbal, highly intelligent eight-year-old boy with cerebral palsy. One day, he realizes that something could happen to his parents up the road, so he devises a back-up plan. He decides that he needs a sister – and then magic takes over. Ann (Ann Talman) is called upon to fulfill his order, but must also fulfill her own dreams and destiny. A tall order – but one which this true story meets head-on.

Ann Talman - Photo by John Altdorfer

Woody’s sister Ann (Ann Talman) has always felt a special connection to her older brother Woody. She never even realized that he was “different” until she grew a bit older and realized that others reacted to him in unusual ways. WOODY’S ORDER! follows Ann’s journey from childhood to the present as seen through her relationship with Woody and a few others close to her. Somehow, Ann always knows that she will someday be the center of Woody’s universe and his caregiver.

Ann Talman - Photo by John Altdorfer

This poignant tale delves into the meaning of attachment, with its ebbs and flows and love/hate moments. WOODY’S ORDER! also raises important questions about obligations, priorities, and choices. With extraordinary compassion, the play explores how one family copes with having a developmentally disabled child who will never become fully independent – and the impact that special child has on the emotional life and day-to-day decisions which each family member makes.

Ann Talman - Photo by John Altdorfer

Director John Shepard helms the production with a sure but gentle hand while expertly treading the fine line between reality and maudlin sentiment. Clearly, this tender story has special meaning to playwright/solo actor Ann Talman, who lived it and now shares her experiences with the audience. It is a joy to see her transition with ease and occasional humor from one character to another.  

Ann Talman after the show - Photo by Elaine L. Mura

The production team has done a fascinating job of turning the stage into a compilation of Ann’s life with Woody and their family – with DNA-like strands of Polaroid family photos dangling from the ceiling.  Stephanie Mayer-Staley’s set is simple but effective, with Andrew J. Paul’s video design a strong contributor to Ann’s trip down memory lane. Years of old videos effectively and smoothly set the stage for WOODY’S ORDER! This production should prove of special significance to other families dealing with disability. In its dissection of family dynamics, it will also appeal to audiences drawn to true family stories about dealing with adversity.

Laughing with Ann Talman - Photo by Elaine L. Mura

WOODY’S ORDER! runs through April 22, 2017, with performances at 8 p.m. on Fridays and Saturdays and at 2 p.m. on Sundays. Ensemble Studio Theatre/LA is in the Atwater Village Theatre complex located at 3269 Casitas Avenue, Los Angeles, CA 90039. Tickets range from $25 to $30. For information and reservations, call 818-829-1197 or go online

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