'One Man Lord of the Rings' at Woolly Mammoth is a gleeful Tolkien homage
By Peter Marks
Monday, July 12, 2010
Let me confess that I can't tell whether I'm a fan of "The Lord of the Rings": I've never read the books or seen the movies. (Yes, we aliens live among you.) But it must be saying something that even a Tolkien agnostic can chuckle over Charles Ross's "One Man Lord of the Rings," his virtuoso encapsulation of the film trilogy.
The 70-minute production, at Woolly Mammoth Theatre through Aug. 1, is a sequel of sorts to his "One Man Star Wars Trilogy," the uproarious show that put Ross on the theater map. Unlike his "Star Wars," this new work is not being offered as part of the Capital Fringe Festival. But the follow-up is just as gleefully Fringe-worthy, so a review is provided in this space. Fringe-goers -- especially those who know their way around Middle-Earth -- would be well advised to detour from the official venues and catch Ross in his tickling solo act.
The charming Ross is a fabulous technician, an astute mimic of voices, of actors' gestures, even of movie sound effects. With those skills alone, "One Man Lord of the Rings" makes a funny impression. Dressed in the kind of dark jumpsuit that gives him the look of a trainee for some kind of security job, Ross provides a virtually nonstop embodiment of the gallery of characters from "Fellowship of the Ring," "The Two Towers" and "The Return of the King." (Between each segment of the clearly exhausting movie re-creations, he stops only long enough to take a gulp of water.)
Because I can't distinguish a hobbit from a wizard, many jokes went over my head. Then again, my seatmate, who'd seen all three films, reported getting only about 50 percent of the references. While enormously popular, "The Lord of the Rings" doesn't match "Star Wars" for touchstone pop-cultural significance, and so the audience for this show might not be quite as sizable or ready-made. Still, Ross is such a winning entertainment machine that anyone who partakes will remember his Herculean labors fondly.