Charles Ross in One-Man Star Wars Trilogy
Photo © Jason Woodruff
Charles Ross in One-Man Star Wars Trilogy
Photo © Jason Woodruff
The sheer number of movie spoofs playing in New York this season is probably a sign of how desperate New York theaters are for new audiences. A partial list includes Fatal Attraction: A Greek Tragedy, You See Us As You Want to See Us... Reflections from The Breakfast Club, and the upcoming Silence! The Musical. (In addition, two of Broadway's new musicals -- Dirty Rotten Scoundrels and Monty Python's Spamalot -- are film to stage adaptations.) Now, Canadian fanboy Charles Ross throws another log onto the fire with his well-toured One-Man Star Wars Trilogy, which performs at Off-Broadway's Lamb's Theater, suitably enough, until Halloween.

The trilogy, of course, refers to Episodes IV through VI -- A New Hope, The Empire Strikes Back, and Return of the Jedi. His self-imposed 58-minute running time doesn't allow him to digress too often, but he occasionally alludes to information revealed in the prequels. (If you haven't yet seen Revenge of the Sith, beware; the show discloses what happens in that film's climactic scene in detail.) Ross performs all of the characters, inserts factoids when appropriate, sings from the John Williams score, and provides sound effects. Most of his impressions are spot-on, especially R2D2, but his Yoda, he admits, is abysmal.

What actor mispronounces Princess Leia's name in the movie? What's the male-to-female ratio of the series? Which shots are botched for continuity? You'll find out here. It's been reported that Ross has seen the original movie over 400 times, and the other episodes well into the double-digits. Unfortunately, this makes the performer assume that the audience has an equally encyclopedic knowledge of the series, which makes him zoom through important passages in a way that leaves average theatergoers scratching their heads. The show's ideal for fanatics and families; the former group tends to chortle at the more arcane in-jokes, and the latter gets tickled by the actor's elastic movements.

According to the program notes, director TJ Dawe has worked on the material with Ross since their college years, when they'd throw around ideas for the show while tossing a Frisbee. His direction is serviceable, and he gets Ross to employ most of the Lamb Theatre's expansive stage. However, the show could use some more variety during the many fight sequences, which start to look stale around the third go. The lighting design is faithful to the movie, with the title of the show projected onto the stage in the trademark font as the audience enters. The performer handles all of the sound design with his bare voice, but the soundtrack greets the audience for the entrance and exit music. For an added effect, the ushers are dressed as characters from the movie, but Ross does not use any costumes or props.

Film spoofs, by nature, have built in audiences and marketing routines, and the show ends with a plug for the Toys R Us down the block, where, we learn, your kids can nudge you into buying all sorts of related merchandise. (This may be the boldest product placement in New York theater since Gran Centanario tequila's many mentions in the revivial of Sweet Charity.) Next month, Ross unveils his One Man Lord of the Rings at the same theater, which, as he quipped after the show, is "pretty much the same thing." If theater's destined to be the handmaiden of the film industry, at least we have a performer as talented as Ross to make it interesting.