If you ask me…
- Tom Holehan
“STAR WARS”, ALL OF IT, ON STAGE AT LONG WHARF
So you don’t have an extra six plus hours to sit down and watch all three parts of the classic “Star Wars” trilogy? Not to worry, Canadian actor Charles Ross has done the work for you at New Haven’s Long Wharf Theatre and can currently shrink your viewing time of the movies and get you in and out in just about an hour. The summer show is called “One Man Star Wars Trilogy” and it’s an amusing, amiable and light theatrical offering until Long Wharf returns with its heavy guns in September.
Okay, the first thing you need to know is that it definitely helps to have a working knowledge of George Lucas’ sci/fi masterworks to truly appreciate “One Man Star Wars Trilogy”. Mr. Ross, under the direction of T.J. Dawe, goes fast and furious and I have to admit - having only seen each film upon its general release and then fleetingly on cable - being left on the sidelines during much of the storytelling. Mr. Ross admits to watching the films – which also include “The Empire Strikes Back” and “The Return of the Jedi” – over 400 times, so it’s not hard to understand how he manages to fly through all three movies in warp speed.
Clad in black on a bare stage in front of a black curtain and utilizing no props, Ross completely captivates his audience from start to finish with only minimal lighting effects to augment his vocal creations of the beloved space opera. Judging from the knowing adult laughter and squeals of delight from several children at the production I caught, Ross is onto something quite special. It may not be for everyone (and it wouldn’t hurt the actor to slow down and clarify his diction a little), but the fanboys will no doubt line up in droves.
Best about the show is Ross’ tongue-in-cheek gentle mocking of the “Star Wars” mythology and especially the acting and post “Star Wars” career of star Mark Hamill. Ross is hilarious playing Hamill in all his boyish insolence, his feathered hair, the annoying whining. He also offers delightful impersonations of robots R2-D2 and C-3PO along with an inspired and very funny bit of business to create the grotesque Jabba the Hutt.
For all his enthusiasm and energy, however, the actor doesn’t seem to possess the necessary vocal range to create a large cast of familiar characters. Princess Leila – the only notable woman in the series – definitely comes up short in the process and I missed the deep base of Darth Vader (though Ross has the heavy breathing down perfectly). Most surprising was the actor’s rather placid rendering of Yoda, a pop culture mainstay that you better do right or don’t bother doing at all. (I was reminded how well both Steve Carrell and Amy Ryan did the voice on an episode of “The Office” this season.)
In the end, however, “One Man Star Wars Trilogy” is a novel act; light summer entertainment brought to snarky life by a game and engaging performer. In a talk with audience members following his show, Ross revealed plans for a similar take on “The Lord of the Rings” series. May the force be with him.
“One Man Star Wars Trilogy” continues at the Long Wharf Theatre in New Haven through July 26. Tickets are available by calling the box office at 203.787.4282 or by visiting www.longwharf.org.
Tom Holehan is co-founder of the Connecticut Critics Circle and Artistic Director of Stratford’s Square One Theatre Company. He welcomes comments at: firstname.lastname@example.org. His reviews and other theatre information can be found on the Connecticut Critics Circle website: www.ctcritics.org.