In Review

One Man Lord of the Rings

3.5 out of 5 stars
3.5 out of 5 stars - 'Sweet Stuff'
San Jose Repertory Theater
Written and performed by Charles Ross
Review by Cy Ashley Webb

Sometimes you can judge a show by the audience. This  happy crowd of 20 and 30-somethings was so taken with Charles Ross’s  rapid-fire, athletic performance that they laughed throughout the event. These weren’t big guffaws and belly laughs, but rather the laughter of recognition. These Lord of the Rings die-hards laughed when catching the fine points of a performance well delivered. Extra-textual references to Google, Braveheart, and Ring of Fire drew even more laughs. Fascinating conversations undoubtedly ensued, as folks dissected the performance and re-experienced the rich vein of Lord of the Rings trivia that lay exposed.

The audience we wild when Ross starting asking how many of them saw  the trilogy, how many saw the extended edition, and how many saw the entire extended version in a twelve hour period. To those brave few who admitted that they had never seen the movies, he asked with mock horror, “What are you doing here?”

True confession: the Lord of the Rings trilogy completely passed me by. Not only did the movies fail to tweak even the periphery of my  consciousness, but I was never keen on The Hobbit either. Back when being conversant with The Hobbit was a pre-requisite to being a good hippy, I struggled through the work. Surrounded by compatriots who spoke fluent Elvish, I retired to JRR Tolkien’s more academic writing.

Such lack of familiarity wasn’t a drawback to appreciating Ross’s trek through Middle Earth. While the fine points of Frodo and Sam’s romp from the Shire to Rivendell through the Mines of Moria were lost on me, as were most of the in-jokes and self-referential commentary, Ross’s transformations from Legolas to Frodo to Aragom to Gollum to Gandalf to Sam, and at least twenty other Orts, Ents, Hobbits, and other assorted denizens were awesome to behold.

On stages like this, the actor’s craft is laid bare, as this performance had nary a stick of scenery or stitch of costume, and only the most humble of light and sound design. Ross romanced his crowd for a solid 70 minutes, with only the briefest of water breaks. I’d love to see his One Man Star Wars Trilogy, just to be able to better appreciate how he works his magic.

Ross’s stamina was such that his battle scenes appeared as if he single-handedly reenacted all of World War One.  Despite this exertion, he was completely unwinded when he chatting with the audience afterwards, relaying the story of getting the rights to the performance (which was a saga in itself) and his meeting Ian McKellen.

One Man Lord of the Rings aficionados are sure to appreciate this show. Ross tours irregularly so there’s no telling when the next chance to catch his one-of-a-kind act will be.

Cy Ashley Webb
Cy spent the ‘80’s as a bench scientist, the tech boom doing intellectual property law, and the first decade of the millennium, aspiring to be the world’s oldest grad student at Stanford where she is interested in political martyrdom. Presently, she enjoys writing for Stark Insider and the SF Examiner, hanging out at Palo Alto Children's Theatre, and participating in various political activities. Democracy is not a spectator sport! Cy is a SFBATCC member.