Natasha Wood: Rolling with Laughter

"Come on, girl," Natasha Wood told herself, as a pep talk when she was younger. "You have a reinforced backbone in there." In fact, Wood is confined to a wheelchair, unable to hold anything of significant weight in her hands, due to a rare affliction known as spinal muscular atrophy. But she holds her own in telling a pleasingly honest but never maudlin story of her life.

Wood, a former BBC production manager, co-wrote with Beverly Sanders this warmhearted one-woman show. Wood's sense of humor can clearly be attributed to a great degree to her father, who owned a lingerie company and hung a double-F cup brassiere in front of the shop, along with a sign that read, "Whoever this shall fit, I shall marry." That humor comes in handy, for Wood's tale touches on the difficulty of mobility, the surgical reinforcement of her body, and the painful reality of a dissolving marriage to a man who seemed ideally suited to her special needs.

Despite a few stumbles with the text at the show reviewed, Wood has a graciousness and lack of sentimentality that serves the work very well. Director Cameron Watson relies on light and sound changes, as well as the mobility of Wood's electric wheelchair, to effectively suggest change of time and scenery. In a simple but very touching way, the goofy expression of joy on Wood's face as she insists at her wedding that her husband dance alongside her wheelchair, which careens about the stage, is a tremendous moment. It shows us that sometimes the greatest liabilities can be turned into remarkable advantages.

Presented by and at the El Portal Forum Theatre, 5269 Lankershim Blvd., North Hollywood. Mon-Tue. 8 p.m. Apr. 9-May 8. (818) 508-4200.