In Charles Ross’ nearly verbatim live stage ode to the “Star Wars” trilogy, that sprawling sci-fi epic, an entire galaxy of creatures and characters is conjured using the simplest of special effects: the human body.
Princess Leia, she of the cinnamon-bun hairdo, translates as little more than a pair of hands cupped over the 33-year-old actor’s ears. Slowly flapping his arms in front of his face, Ross becomes the gaping, disgusting maw of Jabba the Hutt. And so on.
The stage show, called — what else? — “One-Man 'Star Wars’ Trilogy,” wraps up a run this weekend at downtown Scottsdale’s Theater 4301. From a theatrical standpoint, it’s a strangely riveting journey through the space opera (omitting, thankfully, the most recent three cinematic installments), a display of actorly exploit and showmanship.
“Yeah, kids,” Ross jokes, in one of several asides to his audience, “that four years of mime school really paid off.”
Yet that’s not the most gimmicky of his show’s assorted gimmicks. In a nod to shrinking attention spans, Ross compresses the trilogy to a lone, frenetic hour on stage.
It’s a somewhat alienating conceit: Those who don’t know their Tatooines from their TIE fighters — or whose recollection of “Star Wars” amounts to a series of iconic moments (garbage compactor shenanigans, Luke Skywalker’s unmasking of Darth Vader) — may find themselves woefully adrift on Ross’ zippy narrative Autobahn.
Meanwhile, “Star Wars” fanatics may find, in seeing their space drama sped up like a Keystone Kops short, that the object of their affection has lost a lot of luster — and picked up a heaping dose of absurdity. Like the abundance of British actors in space.
The incessantly whiny, almost hyper-pubescent angst of its protagonist, Luke Skywalker.
The comedy of “One-Man 'Star Wars’ Trilogy” largely means riffing on those absurdities with the self-referential sarcasm of “Mystery Science Theater 3000.” (“Why are we using the metric system?” one of his characters pauses to ask. Because, apropos of nothing, the fictional “Star Wars” universe does.)
The end result is a show that speaks to particular niches — “Star Wars” buffs, sure, and those, like me, who simply want to see an actor performing something akin to an athletic endurance trial. But I’d venture another potential market segment: families.
“Star Wars,” after all, is little more than a trumped-up children’s adventure tale. And Ross, stage pro that he is, knows how to gauge his audience: Forty-five minutes into the show last weekend, he paused and got the audience’s few fidgety children to stand up and do their own bit of physical gesturing — waving their arms and shaking their bodies.
They were getting the wiggles out.
REVIEW | "One-Man “Star Wars” Trilogy"
When: 7:30 p.m. today, 2 p.m. and 8 p.m. Saturday, 2 p.m. Sunday
Where: Theater 4301, 4301 N. Scottsdale Road, Scottsdale
Information: (480) 994-2787 or www.scottsdaleperformingarts.org