If there’s one thing you should know before venturing out to see Charles Ross’ mind-blowing One-Man Star Wars, it’s that no deep love for (or even prior knowledge of) the Star Wars movies is required. Coming in as something of a Star Wars neophyte (I’ve seen the three early movies maybe once or twice), I admit I was a tad skeptical about whether or not I would “get” One-Man Star Wars.
Within the first 30 seconds of the show, which begins with Ross’ spot-on imitation of the familiar 20th Century Fox logo, it was clear that one needs only eyes and ears to enjoy Ross’ frantic, breathless distillation of roughly seven hours of epic battles, smarmy dialogue, obvious exposition (which Ross covers with a few refrains of “exposition, exposition, exposition”), and cheap but memorable throwaway jokes from Star Wars, The Empire Strikes Back, and Return of the Jedi.
The trick to the show’s mass appeal is Ross’ incredible ability to imitate everything in the movies: the music, the sound effects, the camera pans and close-ups, and, of course, the characters. Ross is an immensely charismatic performer; watching his highly expressive face contort to create a pitch-perfect string of R2D2’s bleeps and whistles and then immediately shift into an eerie facial copy of Mark Hamill’s whimpering, whiny little bitch of a Jedi knight is a riveting morphological study unto itself. And it’s not just the aural and visual similarities that will “strike” audiences — you haven’t lived until you’ve been blessed by the copious amount of spittle that emerges from Ross’ mouth when he does the Death Star blowing up.
While the premise of One-Man Star Wars might sound gimmicky, Ross’ enthusiasm for performing and evident love of George Lucas’ intergalactic trilogy combine with his skill as a funny-man to make the experience more than just reliving the day you waited in line for hours to see Luke Skywalker find out that Darth Vader was his father. Ross breaks up the action by breaking through the fourth wall with ad libs to audience stragglers (“You’re late as well!”) and a baby in the front row who let out a wail or two during the opening night’s show.
There’s something so endearing about watching a man live out his shamelessly geeky personal dream in front of an audience, and when Ross is already sweating profusely during the Mos Eisley scene (which is maybe 45 minutes into the first film), well, it’s kinda totally, um, hot. The stamina! The endurance this man must have! For girls with a geek streak, Ross is practically a gold mine.
Another fascinating facet of the show was the fact that Ross takes three of the most spectacular (in the ‘spectacle’ sense) movies ever made and practically inverts them — he walks onstage wearing a nondescript black jumpsuit and black sneakers, has no set, no props, and no costumes. It’s a marvel of minimalist theatre, and a totally unique comedy experience.
Ross wrapped up the show by squatting at the edge of the stage and offering a short summary of the insanity his life has become since he created One-Man Star Wars: he tours regularly to cities large and small, performed the show to sold-out crowds Off-Broadway for a few months, was licensed by Lucasfilm Ltd., and did four 3,500-audience-member shows at last year’s Celebration III, the ultimate Star Wars fan convention (“I was looking out at a geek sea,” Ross said). He then offered some friendly advice: “If you have a weird pipe dream … stick to your guns. You guys can get over every single obstacle in life.” In this day and age, if you can’t believe that kind of advice from a man who makes his living off of his obsessive love for Star Wars, who can you believe?
ONE-MAN STAR WARS • Piccolo Spoleto’s Piccolo Fringe Theatre Series • $15 • 1 hour • June 1, 9 at 9 p.m., June 2, 4 at 4 p.m., June 3 at 7 p.m., June 6 at 8 p.m., June 7 at 6 p.m. • American Theater, 446 King St. • 554-6060
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