Forty years after the original movie’s release, and Star Wars continues to dominate our galaxy. Star Wars: The Force Awakens, the seventh and latest entry in the sci-fi series, has smashed box-office records, earning $2 billion worldwide, and proved that the cultural phenomenon is not going away anytime soon.
Given the recent awakening of The Force, Ground Zero Theatre could not have picked a better time to stage Stephen Massicotte’s The Boy’s Own Jedi Handbook, running now at Vertigo Theatre’s Studio.
The year is 1977, and The Kid (Christian Goutsis) has just had his mind blown away by Star Wars: A New Hope. Star Wars is all the 10-year-old can talk about, much to the annoyance of his mother. Lucky for him, his obsession with Star Wars makes him a new friend in detention. James (Karl Sine) and The Kid bond over their love of Star Wars, recreating the movie the best they can with burlap sack jedi robes, cardboard tube lightsabers, and other junk laying around.
For anyone familiar with The Complete Works of William Shakespeare (Abridged), imagine almost exactly that but with Star Wars. Goutsis and Sine win howling laughter from the audience as they blow through just about every iconic scene from the original movie, voices and all. The madcap action is brilliantly directed by Ryan Luhning, artistic director of Ground Zero Theatre.
Massicotte’s play is not just about Star Wars, of course. The play is largely a coming of age story about a lonely boy who survives moving to a new city and going to a new school with help from The Force. Massicotte goes beyond Star Wars as a cultural juggernaut and explores why so many have fallen in love with the franchise. For The Kid, Star Wars is not just a movie, but a world he can escape into where the good guys win. A needed escape from the trials and tribulations of grade 4.
The second half sees James and The Kid now in junior high. Junior high is a different beast altogether, as boys and girls are going around town. Star Wars: The Empire Strikes Back is just around the corner, but this time James and The Kid have company. Kerry (Amber Bissonnette) and Mandy (Sarah Wheeldon) ‘bump’ into the boys at the movie theatre, later inviting them to go roller-skating for a (disastrous) double date.
The young romance is all kinds of sweet and awkward, as the characters dance around the obvious. (Jedi training doesn’t say anything about first kisses!).
The genius of Massicotte’s play is its universality, despite being grounded in Star Wars fandom. Audiences will likely be thrown back to their own wonder years, for better or for worse, by this fun, compelling story about friendship and growing up in an era far, far away. Children, too, will enjoy this wildly imaginative production that bridges generations of Star Wars fans together.
Sine’s fight choreography is made even more epic by JP Thibodeau’s striking lighting design. (Yes, that scene between Darth Vader and Luke happens, and it is glorious). The choreographed fights are a sight to see, along with the creative use of different materials to re-construct big set pieces from the movies.
With something for everyone, including young padawans, The Boy’s Own Jedi Handbook is a must-see.
Ground Zero Theatre’s The Boy’s Own Jedi Handbook runs Feb 11 – 21 at Vertigo Theatre’s Studio.
For more information about the show, including how to buy tickets, visit: http://www.groundzerotheatre.ca/