One ring to rule them all……..and one man to rule the stage. Back by popular demand, Charles Ross has once again graced Woolly Mammoth Theatre Company’s stage, this time with One Man Lord of the Rings, an astoundingly energetic and hugely entertaining solo interpretation of the blockbuster movie trilogy.
Following the success of his smash hit One Man Star Wars Trilogy, Charles Ross moved on to his next ambitious project, a one man version of the massively popular Lord of the Rings film trilogy. Without the use of any costumes, props, sets, music or sound effects, Ross brings the cinematic epic to vibrant life. Besides his own body and voice, Ross only utilizes some carefully chosen lighting, which helps to differentiate the rapidly shifting locales of the films. If it were anyone else out on that bare stage, the show could very easily have fallen flat. However, through Ross’s meticulous preparation, apparent love for the L.O.T.R. universe, and undeniable talent, he delivers a bravura performance.
Ross’ script presents a carefully planned rhythm of exposition and action sequences, maintaining a needed momentum while occasionally allowing both performer and audience to catch their breath. Lengthy dialogue sequences from the films have been whittled down to their most crucial, memorable elements, as have massive action sequences like “The Battle for Helm’s Deep”. It’s basically a “greatest hits” take on the film trilogy, and it’s brilliant stuff.
Ross’s impressions – a linchpin of the show – are spot on. He displays an incredible vocal range and deep dedication to the source material, channeling timid hobbits, gruff dwarves, monstrous orcs, pompous humans, and other varied denizens of Middle Earth in each breathless sequence.
Ross employs a relentless energy and keen sense of his own body to give each character a unique presence. I had no trouble separating physically-similar characters like Aragorn the ranger from Legolas the elf, due to subtle yet effective shifts in posture and demeanor. So convincing is Ross in each role that one of his death scenes actually made a child cry, and he had to stop the show and reassure her that he wasn’t really dead. Now that is acting.
Importantly, Ross knows when to break character and the fourth wall. He clearly understands the importance of a solo performer’s connection with the audience. His well-timed banter really enriches the experience, breaking up lengthy and intense sequences with witty asides and providing much needed explanation for the uninitiated at specific points during the show.
One caveat for a potential audience member: If you haven’t seen the film trilogy, it’s still an enjoyable production, but you will most likely find yourself frequently lost. Those that have read the books will still be able to follow along, if not enjoy every gag. Those that haven’t done either might feel like the only one at the party not in on a hilarious joke.
One Man Lord of the Rings clocks in at just over an hour, and were it any longer, Mr. Ross might just keel over from exhaustion. Still, it’s a shame the show seems to reach its end so quickly. After trekking deep into Middle Earth with Ross as our energetic, mesmerizing guide, I, for one, was sad to leave.
One Man Lord of the Rings
Written and performed by Charles Ross
Based on the works of J.R.R. Tolkien
Directed by TJ Dawe
Produced by Woolly Mammoth Theatre Company
Reviewed by Ben Demers
One Man Lord of the Rings runs thru August 1, 2010.
For details, directions and tickets, click here.
ONE MAN LORD OF THE RINGS