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One Man Star Wars Trilogy at the Cleveland Play House

So, shortly after heading out to see Charles Ross’ “One Man Star Wars Trilogy” this afternoon, we had to turn around and head home for a minute, and when we did, I waited in the car. And to pass the time, I picked up the tickets and happened to read them closely for the first time – and it’s a good thing I did.

Because The Cleveland Play House (where the show was) and Playhouse Square (where I thought the show was) are two completely different places. Seriously different places. And while I’ve never been to the former, I’ve been to the latter enough that I was all set mentally to head up there, get off at the E. 14th exit, park in one of the garages, and hit the theatre like I’ve done many times before.

And if I had done that, I’d. Have. Been. Stupidandpissedoff.

But I didn’t, and I wasn’t, and that’s how I made my first trip to the Cleveland Play House, and “One Man Star Wars Trilogy” was FANTASTIC. I knew it would be funny: I don’t think I expected to witness such sheer theatrical and comic talent. And while it’s easy enough to sum up the idea of the show, it’ s another thing entirely to try and explain Charles Ross’ genius in using no props and only his own vocal sound effects to not only portray the characters in the saga, but the different types of spacecraft, for Pete’s sake.

The Death Star trench run marking the climax of the opening Star Wars segment was plain frakking brilliant: He emulates those rapid-fire edits from X-Wing to TIE Fighter to the interior of the Death Star to Grand Moff Tarkin’s stoic pose to the doomed helmeted dudes firing up the planet-killer so frantically, but they’re all totally recognizable for what they are.

And I give the guy credit for putting up with glitches like an ear-hung microphone that refused to stay put to the point where during the Return of the Jedi final duel, he actually just took the thing off and performed a minute or two with nothing but his own voice, which was damned admirable. And maybe because it was a Saturday matinee, but man, were there a lot of kids and parents who made multiple trips to the bathroom. It was just a one-hour show! (It wound up being about 1:20, due to the asides and quips Mr. Ross threw in during these distractions, and at one point he joked, “What, do you have these kids shotgunning pops just before we start?”)

Kelsey loved it, but honestly, I can see a fair amount of kids younger than, say, 9 or 10 years old getting bored with the show. It’s a guy in a black jumpsuit. There are no lasers or lightsabers or John Williams’ sound cues. The only visual effects are stage lighting. And honestly, to really appreciate it, you’ve got to understand what parts of the saga deserve a little skewering now and then: Don’t get me wrong – it’s absolutely for fans, but there’s so much more at work here than just Ross’ re-enactment of the original trilogy. The jokes reach behind the scenes and hit on the notes pop culture has added to the saga over the decades, and Ross even refers some material forward into the prequels, if that makes sense.

After the show, Mr. Ross sat out on stage and talked to the audience for an extra few minutes and mentioned that after a couple years of not being able to (legally) perform his follow-up, “The One Man Lord of the Rings,” he’s gotten the go-ahead to take that one on tour, too. (I found some links mentioning a San Francisco performance last month, but no reviews of it.) We’d absolutely be up for that.


May 10, 2009 - Posted by | 1980s, eighties, Film, geek, Ohio, science fiction, Travel | , , , , , ,

1 Comment »

  1. So glad to hear you enjoyed Charles Ross in “One-Man Star Wars Trilogy”!

    We are in fact bringing him back to do “One-Man Lord of the Rings” so I hope you can make it out to see it!

    One-Man Lord of the Rings
    April 14-18, 2010
    Baxter Stage | The Cleveland Play House

    For more info:

    or call (216) 795-7000 ext. 4 for tickets.

    I hope you can make it!

    Comment by Jessica | March 31, 2010 | Reply

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