Review: a show for die-hard ‘Die Hard’ fans

Happy holidays! Richard Marsh stars in the one-man show “Yippee Ki Yay,” a poetic parody of “Die Hard,” the 1988 Christmas classic. Photo: Des Moines Performing Arts

Writer: Mathany Ahmed

When I threw a holiday party last year, I asked my soon-to-be guests what movies we should screen. They suggested “Elf,” “A Christmas Story” and even that train movie with the mildly creepy animated kids. But when the party rolled around, I ignored their recommendations and instead played my favorite Christmas movie: “Die Hard,” the 1988 hit about a New York City cop who saves Christmas from a troop of East German terrorists.

Only about half my guests had ever seen the movie, which I didn’t realize until about halfway through. I worried that seeing machine guns instead of Santa Claus might have been a bit of a shock until I realized that Bruce Willis had already won over the crowd, saving his marriage, the hostages of Nakatomi Plaza and the vibes of my party all in one stunning (and barefoot) performance.

So I hoped for some of that magic Tuesday when I went to see “Yippee Ki Yay,” an unauthorized “Die Hard” parody that opened a weeklong run at the Temple for Performing Arts. It’s a love letter to what is obviously the greatest Christmas movie of all time, and if you’re a die-hard “Die Hard” fan, you’ll have a good time. The one-man show can’t possibly offer all the hunky Willis charm, of course, but its creator and star — a scrawny British guy — is so clearly obsessed with the story that you can’t help but appreciate his commitment to the bit. I mean, he turned the epic action movie into a 75-minute epic poem.

Richard Marsh, the playwright, really, really loves “Die Hard.”  As he tells it, he met his wife in a Reddit forum about the movie. The story has been a constant source of bonding and connection through their courtship, marriage and even early years of parenthood.

He uses every inch of the tight space and plays numerous characters. His impressions of John McClane (the Willis character) and Hans Gruber (Alan Rickman) made me laugh, and there’s no character left behind. At one point, he even embodies a single bullet moments before it pierces the skull of a henchman. The sound effects, like rat-a-tat machine guns, and lighting, like flashing red and blue police lights, help translate each cinematic scene to the stage. Overall, the adaptation is as faithful as you could hope for in a one-man play.

Even so, this is obviously a show for true-blue enthusiasts. The details Marsh highlights and the commentary he adds — about its plot holes, its problematic anti-feminist themes and even its enduring influence on his own personal life — are juicy for fans but could be overwhelming for the uninitiated. The rhyming, metered poetry is impressive but doesn’t exactly make things easier to understand.

But as a fan myself, it was fun to see the show with a room full of other “Die Hard” devotees — almost as fun as watching it among friends at my party.

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