Review: ‘One-Man Star Wars Trilogy’

opened Tuesday, Feb. 27, 2007, Post Street Theatre

For fans only: One-man `Star Wars’ has major dork appeal
three stars Geek mythology

Charles Ross is saving the galaxy one geek at a time. I use the word “geek” with love. It takes one to know one.

Ross goes so far as to call himself a “professional geek,” and it’s hard to argue with him. For nearly six years, this amiable Canadian has been performing One-Man Star Wars Trilogy, which made its Bay Area debut Tuesday at San Francisco’s Post Street Theatre.

The title pretty much says it all: One hard-working guy performs three classic sci-fi movies in just about an hour.

If you know your Star Wars movies (and we’re talking the original three, not those more recent, nominally human debacles), you’ll love every obscure reference in Ross’ vast repertoire of obscure references.

If names like Jabba the Hutt or Lando Calrissian mean nothing to you, this is not the play for you. Granted, the show will be over before you can grab much of a nap, but it’ll be torture for you, and Ross’ exertions will look like the weirdest, least effective exercise class you’ve ever seen.

But for those who cherish every R2-D2 beep (and Ross does terrific R2 squeaks, whistles and grunts), One-Man Star Wars Trilogy is better than Shakespeare.

Dressed in black coveralls, Ross begins at the beginning, with the yellow letters crawling across the screen and John Williams’ bombastic score blasting. We get a hint of Ross’ somewhat cavalier approach when he turns all that scrolling verbiage into so much “blah, blah, blah.” Apparently he doesn’t care about that stuff either.

He jumps right into the first movie, which he dispatches in about 20 minutes.

Highlights include a petulant Luke Skywalker, who comes across as a whiner with ’70s feathered hair, an asthmatic Darth Vader and a crotch-grabbing Han Solo, who’s not above uttering a little “schwing” whenever Princess Leia is around.

Ross’ revisionist version allows us a moment of indignation when, at the award ceremony that closes Star Wars, poor Chewbacca doesn’t get a medal of honor.

Just as in real life, the second movie is better than the first and not quite as silly as the third. Ross doesn’t do a very good Yoda — he sounds like a prospector staking a claim on the Yukon — but he makes up for it with his dead-on impersonation of a disabled AT-AT (all-terrain armored transport, those giant machines that look like the loading cranes at the Oakland docks).

By the time he gets to Return of the Jedi, Ross is cracking himself up because with all the light saber action, he can’t help spitting on the people in the front row.

The true Star Wars geeks — and the opening-night audience was full of them — howl over the minutiae that baffles the rest of us. I mean, is Ross slicing open the belly of a dead tauntaun on the frozen planet Hoth or what?

If you haven’t ever seen the movies or have mostly forgotten them, you can pretty much forget figuring out what’s going on. Between the breakneck pace of T.J. Dawe’s direction and Ross’ liberties taken with both plot and character, it’s sort of a free-for-all.

No one, however, whether you know the movies or not, will be able to resist Ross’ depiction of Jabba the Hutt, the giant worm-like baddie that chains up Leia and makes her wear a golden bikini that only Cher would envy.

Mercifully, Ross keeps the Ewok references to a minimum, though he does a very funny version of their song that ends Return of the Jedi.

Ross calls his show a sketch that has “gone very wrong…or very right depending on how you look at it.”

For Star Wars fans, he’s a rock star, and this show is heaven. To others, he’s a talented, energetic geek performing for other geeks. The force is strong in this one. Long may he geek out.

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