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part of a small rebellion | by maryann johanson

One-Man Star Wars Trilogy (review)

Geek Theater

Charles Ross stands on a black-box stage, dressed entirely in black, sans props and indeed any theatrical support of any kind beyond some simple lighting changes, and he brings to life the Star Wars trilogy in a way that, to devoted fans, is instantly recognizable at the same time that it is Ross’s own uniquely insane vision. His One-Man Star Wars Trilogy is a triumph of fannish adoration, of snarky commentary, of offbeat theater.
It’s also theater that is delightfully exhausting to behold. Ross does all the voices. He does all the sound FX. He runs around the stage with his arms wide in imitation of an X-wing fighter, and he leaps into the air spreadeagled to signify the Death Star exploding, and he fights both sides of every lightsaber duel. He appears to drink several bottles of water during the course of the 70-minute, intermission-free show, and appears to sweat it all off again. He has achieved the dream of health-conscious geeks everywhere: he has combined a workout with an excuse to whine like Luke Skywalker.

For those who don’t see the pleasure in whining like Luke Skywalker, who don’t find it hilarious that Luke was going into Toschi Station to pick up some power converters, then there is no reason at all to show up for One-Man Star Wars Trilogy. This is not for you. This is for those who understand how a show like this can be, as Ross himself explains, “autobiogeekical.” As Ross runs through a condensed version of the three Star Wars movies, he is approximating how fans experience the films each and every time we watch them: We speak along with some of the dialogue, scoffing at some lines, respectful of others. We let our attentions wander during some moments, and focus intently at others. We appreciate deeply both the wisdom and the goofiness of it all. We make fun among ourselves but defend it when outsiders dare to denigrate it. This isn’t about perfect impersonation of famous actors; it’s emphatically not about watching Ross and seeing Sir Alec Guinness or Mark Hamill; it’s about watching Ross and seeing ourselves. Ross holds up a mirror to our own geekitude and shows us how silly and how wonderful a healthy grownup playfulness can be.

And he does that partly through a refreshingly childlike enthusiasm and uninhibitedness that is missing from many actors and performers, geeky or not. A friend of mine has described OMSWT as being like an eight-year-old boy explaining to his mother what happens in the movie — “and then the ship blew up! PWARH! BLAM! and then there was a duel! WHARM! WHARM! and then there were these cool monsters that went RAWRGH!” — and that’s exactly right. Ross loses himself in his performance, gives over to it entirely, believes in the inanity of it entirely so that it has the kind of integrity that makes it breath and laugh and live. It ain’t Shakespeare, of course, but I’ve seen some Shakespeare that could have benefited from that kind of lack of restraint and generosity of the self on the part of its cast.

Look, Ross’s performance will mystify anyone who hasn’t seen Star Wars a hundred times, although why anyone who hasn’t seen Star Wars a hundred times would even turn out for OMSWT is a mystery itself. Even with that limitation, Ross still has a potential audience of millions, because Star Wars is the shared cultural experience of an entire generation, one that he has distilled into a adoring but never entirely reverent nugget of delicious lunacy.

“One-Man Star War Trilogy” is at New York City’s Lambs Theater through October 31. Get tickets through Telecharge.com.

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