A typical “Star Wars” reenactment takes place in someone’s backyard, where a group of able-bodied young men fire imaginary lasers and knock each other senseless with glowing plastic tubes, not yet aware that bruises left by novelty light sabers rarely make for a good war story.
One Man Star Wars
WHEN: 7 p.m. June 5, 7 and 8; 6 p.m. today and June 9.WHERE: Theatre 99, 280 Meeting St. #B
Fortunately for Charleston paramedics, “One Man Star Wars,” which opened last night at Theatre 99 and runs through June 9, is infinitely more sophisticated. Performing in the Piccolo Spoleto Festival, Charlie Ross was a film studio wrapped into a lithe, charismatic package. He sprinted his way through pivotal scenes from George Lucas’ original big three, with music and sound effects provided courtesy of his own vocal cords.
Ross bounded his way through each film with gusto and an impressive attention to detail. He opened his act with a dead-on impression of the iconic Twentieth Century Fox drum roll before segueing into an affectionate skewering of the floating yellow paragraphs that deliver the mammoth backstory requisite for a “Star Wars” movie. His act isn’t about recreating the trilogy, it’s about recreating the experience of watching the trilogy.
The fun of this particular viewing experience is that Skywalker and company are all filtered through Ross, whose manic energy leaves little room for pauses as he rapidly transitions between Obi-Wan Kenobi and Yoda (consider the height difference alone).
He became the filter through which the audience viewed the films, his biases infusing decades-old characters with a new lease on life. Ross’ Luke Skywalker was a teenage whiner and his Han Solo was a caricature of overblown masculinity trapped in a bad romantic comedy with a perpetually perplexed Princess Leia. He hardly deviated from Lucas’ text, but tweaked his line readings just enough to let old friends feel excited again.
Ross accomplished all of this without ever seeming malicious towards his source material. He engaged his audience with the good-natured sense of humor of a tour guide, carefully shepherding them through the major moments sacred to every “Star Wars” fan, from the explosion of the original Death Star to Han’s entombment in a sheet of carbonite.
Of course these moments all mean very little to the uninitiated. Enjoying the show comes in part from recognizing lines or action sequences ripped straight from the big screen and rendered with endearing earnestness on the humble stage. It’s for adults too old to keep playing in the backyard, but who are willing to settle for watching one of their own continue on with the ways of the Force.
Frank Ready is a Newhouse School graduate student.