The Force is not only strong with Jedi master Luke Skywalker, but Canadian actor Charles Ross, who has performed a one-man show centered on the original "Star Wars" trilogy around the world for the past 14 years.
"It's like seeing 'Star Wars' in a way that was never intended," Ross says. "It's only one-hour long -- no costumes, sets or props. It's bite-size."
His show, "One-Man Star Wars Trilogy," lands at Guild Hall in East Hampton, where East Enders can watch him channel every character from the dark lord Darth Vader to loyal droids C-3PO and R2-D2. Wearing a black jumpsuit and simply using his voice and body to animate the action, Ross brings George Lucas' world "in a galaxy far, far away" to life.
"These films have enough awesome characters that people remember," Ross says. "The interest in 'Star Wars' has never waned."
HOW IT BEGAN
Ross grew up on a farm on Canada's Vancouver Island, where there was no TV reception, but he did have a VCR and one of the tapes he'd watch regularly was "Star Wars -- Episode IV: A New Hope."
"I'd have the film going in the background while I played with Legos," says Ross, 41. "That stuff gets into your head. It's like listening to the radio all the time and then suddenly you are regurgitating songs you didn't even know you listened to."
The frustrated actor was touring the theater festival circuit and sought a more reliable source of income. By doing a one-man show, Ross could earn a living as an actor and he chose "Star Wars" as his subject because that's what was closest to him.
"I thought, 'What do I know better than anybody elsee' " Ross says. " 'Star Wars' was something I felt I really knew. I've seen the first film about 400 times and 'The Empire Strikes Back' and 'Return of the Jedi' about 40 times each."
The challenge Ross faced was condensing 61/2 hours of film for the stage. While he plays every character, he's not an impressionist. His show focuses on the spirit and enthusiasm for the material.
"The impression doesn't have to be perfect, but if you can find an idiosyncrasy that reminds you of the person, it unlocks the impression and makes you laugh," he says. "My voices aren't audio perfect, they are characterizations. My Yoda sounds like a goat, but it's the way he says things, not the actual tone of his voice."
Although he doesn't use any sets, costumes, slides, images or props from the original films, Ross did need to submit video of his show to get the blessing of Lucasfilm.
"They weren't worried because I was simple to deal with," Ross says. "I was in this weird gray area. We defined what it is I do and what they expect from me."
Being that the "Star Wars" saga is so beloved, Ross handles the dialogue in a unique way by emphasizing certain comedic moments for laughs without making fun of the material, like Skywalker's whiny dialogue delivery in the first film or the Emperor's excessive overannunciation of every word.
"They are like B movies. Because they take themselves so seriously, they are ripe to be lampooned," says Ross, who also does a one-man show on "The Lord of the Rings" and "The Dark Knight" trilogies. "I think hard-core fans have been able to develop a sense of humor about it. I embrace the nerdiness of it all, which makes it work."
"He'll make jokes about Luke's voice or Princess Leia being his twin sister -- these are things fans identify with. He picks out little moments and makes them funny," says Chris Feehan, 43, the Long Island event coordinator for 501st Legion Empire City Garrison, an international organized "Star Wars" cosplay group. Feehan has seen Ross' show four times in the past six years. "Every time I see it, I catch little nuances and inside jokes. It's never really the same twice."
For Ross, "Star Wars" works because, like "The Wizard of Oz," it's a film with universal appeal that can be enjoyed and understood by people of any age.
"Everybody at some point had an experience with 'Star Wars.' Many have a fond memory of it," says Ross. "I look out and see three generations of 'Star Wars' fans enjoying my show, from grandpas to dads to kids. It's family-style entertainment."
WHEN | WHERE 8 p.m. Saturday, Guild Hall, 158 Main St., East Hampton
INFO $22-$45; 631-324-4050, guildhall.org