This post is written by our new writer, Jill Podolsky, who will cover theatre reviews in the Bay Area.
Do you remember watching a kid in the backyard or living room running around with his arms outstretched, pretending to be an airplane? Making airplane noises—loud engines roaring with bombs dropping and other planes whirring by. It’s charming and funny to watch as the kid runs around, clearly entertaining himself and all those who are watching. That’s what it was like watching Charles Ross “perform” all 3 of the original Star Wars movies at SJ Rep, in just over an hour — very fast, lots of action, funny and totally charming.
The stage was empty and he wore a black jumpsuit so he had lots of room to move and create the galaxy, far, far away. He plays all the characters, flies the ships, fights both sides of the lightsaber battles and does both sides in the “love scenes” between Luke and Leia and Hans Solo and Leia — watching him purse his lips and kiss the air was hilarious. And showing Luke as petulant and whiny was perfect.
There were some good “inside” jokes, like asking why we’re using the metric system in the movie and pointing out Luke’s feathered hair. He also sang made up lyrics and humming to the well-known John Williams’s score. He hummed during fight scenes and throughout each of the stories he was recreating-in between making all the other sound effects. He captured most of the key points and scenes from the movies and the special effects he created were great. R2D2, Darth Vader, light sabers and Chewy were among my favorite sound effects he made. The only external effect that was done was when he used a disco ball to show all the stars in the galaxy. Very fun. And hour was just about the right length of this show.
But for me, the best part of the experience was the audience and his interaction with us. SJ Rep did a great job of advertising the show — Darth Vader made public appearances throughout the city, such as at the SJ Museum of art, where pictures were taken and posted on Facebook. You could have your picture taken with Darth Vader in the theatre lobby before the show and audience members were given discounts if they brought lightsabers to the box office, which several people obviously did (as well as came dressed up as characters from the movies). Charles Ross was like a combination of performer and stand up comic during the entire show. Between movies, he’d ask the audience questions and joke with us. When one poor kid got up to go to the bathroom, Ross gave him grief and when the boy was out of earshot, he told us that no matter where he was in his performance, when the kid came back in we were to pretend the show was over and start applauding like crazy. It was really fun. After he was finished, he came out, sat down on the stage and shared the history of how the show came into existence and his relationship with Lucas Films. It was lovely and a nice way to close the experience.