Speeding through Chicago faster than the Millennium Falcon bolted from the Death Star, Canadian writer and performer, Charles Ross, brought his delightful, witty and highly entertaining, One-Man Star Wars Trilogy, to the Broadway Playhouse. With the permission of the Lucasfilm Ltd. team, this one-man reenactment of the original trio of Star Wars films, from the late 1970’s and early 1980’s, had a little something for everyone. I will be honest, having more than a working knowledge of the films; Star Wars, The Empire Strikes Back and Return of the Jedi should be a prerequisite, however it is not a deal breaker. Ross, tall and lanky, with tousled, sandy brown hair, is a capable stand-in for the original Luke Skywalker. This passion project, something he said he had worked on, off and on, for over 15 years, toured all over Canada and America. It is now the Windy City’s turn to enjoy the adventures from lawless desert planet Tatooine, the lush forest world of Endor and the frozen tundra of Hoth. Cleverly directed by TJ Dawe, with ingenious lighting design from Mike Schaldemose, this show may have been short on props, the entire piece is just Ross acting out the parts of spaceships, heroes & villains, but long on admiration for all things Lucas.
Requiring equal levels of imagination from the captivated audience, Ross’s love letter to the imaginative galaxy crafted in the brain of science fiction wunderkind, George Lucas, the epic, interplanetary space battle may have been crafted far, far away, but it was knocking them dead on Chicago’s Magnificent Mile. Clad in a black one piece suit, Ross nailed the imposing deep breathing of Darth Vadar, the roar of everyone’s favorite Wookie, Chewbacca, the familiar beeps and whistles of R2-D2, and the imperiousness of C-3P0. He didn’t stop there, grabbing his crotch to display the hyper-masculinity of bad boy Han Solo and then placing his fist by his ears to symbolize the hair buns of Princess Leia. When it came to playing burgeoning hero Luke Skywalker, Ross loving spoofed the whiny future Jedi’s most infamous line, “But I was going to go into Tosche Station to pick up some power converters!” Lando Calrissian, Jedi master Yoda and sage advisor, Ben “Obi-Wan” Kenobi, made appearances throughout as well.
If you do not know the difference between the Rebel Alliance and the mighty Empire, this show may have you a little misplaced, but Ross’s frenetic, infectious energy will leave you highly entertained regardless. Mimicking the AT-ST Walker, the TIE Fighter and the exploding Death Star are best to be experienced live. Same for his impressions of ultimate space baddies Jabba the Hutt and the emperor, Darth Sidious. His Admiral Ackbar “It’s a Trap!” was a comedic gift that kept on giving throughout the show.
Blending actual lines from the troika of films including “Aren’t you a little short to be a Storm Trooper?” “Help me Obi-Wan Kenobi, you’re my only hope” and “When 900 years old, you reach…Look as good, you will not” with current pop culture references. “Do you remember your mother, Leia?” Luke asked. “You mean Natalie Portman…..Black Swan….” just reduced the audience of fan boys and girls to a serious case of sidesplitting giggles.
One-Man Star Wars Trilogy proved a delightful gimmick, marketed to a widely rabid fan base, a generation weaned on the sci-fi magic of all things The Force. Ross shared with the audience at the conclusion of his performance, he was “27 when I started” and has since played nationwide, culminating in his biggest and most nerve-racking show, a triumphant command performance in front of the Lucas crew and 3000 Star Wars fans at Comic-Con. From the lightsaber battles to the blasts of the Ion Cannons, Ross’s frenzied vitality and impressive eye for detail made One-Man a winner. Whittling almost 12 hours of film into a 75 minute, one-person, one-act show is no daunting task, let alone doing it with these modern day cinematic classics, however Ross successfully blended his unique brand of physical comedy and quick wit, crafting a shared experience that left this viewer smiling and laughing often, and what is higher praise than that? To pirate a well know line from the Star Wars universe, May The “Farce” Be With You.
One-Man Star Wars Trilogy plays for a limited one-week engagement at the Broadway Playhouse at Water Tower Place through April 24, 2016