Friday, July 30, 2010

One Man Lord of the Rings: nerd comedy gold

Last night I witnessed Charles Ross' One Man Lord of the Rings at Woolly Mammoth. If you've never been there before, Woolly Mammoth is a little independent theater in Penn Quarter that not only hosts plays, but creates their own edgy, punk rock productions as well. It's about a block from the Archives/Navy Memorial station.

Charles Ross is the Canadian behind the now-legendary One-Man Star Wars Trilogy which he's been touring with for over nine years now, and last year he finally acquired the permission from Peter Jackson & Co. to perform his rendition of the Tolkien classics. One Man Lord of the Rings is done in the same style as his Star Wars trilogy: reenacting all three films by himself in just over an hour, without any props and wearing only a black jumpsuit. He plays 42 different characters, depicts each one as a unique entity (Legolas constantly brushes his hair, Denethor can't stop greedily eating baby tomatoes), and provides ample nerdy inside jokes throughout.

Of course Ross' impression of Gollum is spot-on. This is often considered the mark of a great Lord of the Rings reenactor, but I don't think it ends there. His true success is his perfect Uruk-hai voice. Most people don't even think about what these baddies sound like, since they play a relatively small role in the story. But it's a voice we all know too well: "FIND THE HALFLINGS!" This unique death-metal-vocalist-in-the-army voice is nearly impossible for most people to do, but Ross gets it exactly right.

The real key of it all, of course, is the humor. We didn't pay to see The Lord of the Rings in 65 minutes. We paid to see a hilarious parody of The Lord of the Rings in 65 minutes. If you've never read the books or seen the movies, this performance probably won't be funny at all, but that's how it should be. It's a production aimed squarely at huge nerds who would get the White Tree of Gondor tattooed on their arm *cough cough*. Not only does Ross perform Star Wars and LotR at theaters, he also does it at nerd conventions around the world. I love it.

I had forgotten how much I love Woolly Mammoth. The building itself features beautiful industrial-modern architecture, and the people working there are active in the vibrant D.C. indie theater scene. If you've never been to a play at Woolly Mammoth, you really need to experience it firsthand. Unfortunately, One Man Lord of the Rings only runs through the end of this week, but there's a lot more to choose from, like The Vibrator Play and The Agony and Ecstasy of Steve Jobs.

Charles Ross' attention to detail in his work is fantastic. He hits many of the key lines from the films that aren't exactly integral to the storyline, but are famous lines nonetheless. He does a full recreation of Legolas' takedown of an Oliphaunt followed by Gimli's "That still only counts as one!" He puts adequate emphasis on Sam's slow-motion "sharrre the loaadddd" from The Return of the King. But my favorite has to be his subtle reference to the greatest Lord of the Rings-related YouTube video of all time... "They're Taking the Hobbits to Isengard":

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