REVIEW – ONE MAN LORD OF THE RINGS – SAN JOSE REPERTORY THEATRE

Ever see a 5-year-old boy at a birthday party, completely spun out on cake, resisting that root beer sugar crash, racing about with the piñata stick, muttering about dinosaurs and think, “I wonder what that kid is going to be when they grow up?” Well, after seeing the touring production of One Man Lord of the Rings at the San Jose Rep last night, I think I now have a pretty good idea of the possibilities.

Cramming 9+ hours of Academy Award-winning fantasy films into a 60 minute, one man, live show is no easy feat. <– Understatement of the year. It’s safe to say it’s a bit insane as well. As you might imagine the resulting piece is pretty fast-paced. <– New understatement of the year. What that man does in terms of his physical humor with a seemingly endless stash of energy, truly impresses. Let’s be honest, it stuns. The audience was actually exhausted from just watching him. Think Tae Bo as performed by a comicon super fan on massive amphetamines. I tell you this LOTR workout is going to be the next big Hollywood exercise trend. Trust me.

I was at a bit of a disadvantage having seen each of the films in the theatres and not since then. I know…shame, shame, shame. And, this is not a cliff notes version. If you’re not familiar with the books or films, in Charles’ own words “I can’t imagine what in Gods name you’re getting out of this” other than an hour of watching other people get the huge inside joke you are not a part of. I found that the final part of the trilogy, which was the freshest in my mind, provided the most laugh out loud moments, but even with my more distant familiarity with the source material, I wasn’t lost by any means. He does poke fun at more than just the film, incorporating side commentary on the actors, pop music, the art of editing and lack thereof, the process of watching the films at home, the score, acting, himself, pant-ripping (he literally ripped a hole in his knee and stopped momentarily to marvel at the tragedy) geeks, the audience. Really, no one and nothing is safe from his gentle sarcasm and sometimes almost blink-and-you’ll-miss-it jabs.

There were plenty of moments where if you closed your eyes you could have been listening to Elijah Wood, Sean Astin, Hugo Weaving, and Sir Ian McKellan. He’s that good. Looking at him you can even see his whole body transform from the delicate half-elf Arwen to the hideous, hunched over Gollum. He is undeniably a master of physicality in addition to his mad vocal skills. And, the sound effects that came out of his mouth! They were seriously, seriously wicked. Seriously. Wicked. Made me want to stab myself in the eye for having missed his one man Star Wars show last year. I know.

Clad in dark coveralls (to absorb as much of the sweat as possible, no doubt) some lighting flourishes and a body mic were all that technically accompanied this man with a mission on the stage and it was all that was needed, as he had the audience wrapped around his finger like a… (insert witty LOTR reference about a Balrog whip or some other meta, geek-chic reference.)

And in the end, he SHALL pass. 4 out of 4 jewels in the tiara for this spastic yet brilliant artistic endeavor. The more you know (as they say on TV)… the more you’ll really enjoy this performance, and I can easily see die-hard fans of the films ranking this a precious 5! So, see the movies, then see this show. One Man Lord of the Rings plays at the San Jose Rep Theatre in San Jose just through this Sunday, July 29th.

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