Wednesday, April 7, 2010
My friend Cheryl Davis and I saw "Bloody Bloody Andrew Jackson" at the Public two weeks ago. I bought the tickets even before I knew that Jacob Grigolia-Rosenbaum was the fight director (they are fantastic, by the way; certainly on a par with the work he did on "Sailor Man"). I had really enjoyed Les Freres Corbusier's "Boozy," a singular re-imagining of Robert Moses (Mr. Grigolia-Rosenbaum) and Jane Jacobs that was very funny.
But I think "Bloody Bloody Andrew Jackson" is even funnier, while at the same time those half-remembered snippets from AP American History class come to the fore of your brain. The Battle of New Orleans, the Trail of Tears, his wife married him before she was divorced from husbands number one, his supporters tearing up the White House at a reception. It's all on stage. Michael Friedman's songs are wonderful (I like them much more than the stuff he's been writing for The Civilians); in particular, there is a pretty mean but hilarious song about Susan Sontag and "Illness as Metaphor." I wasn't the only one laughing hard, either. Alex Timbers' libretto and direction keep everything moving (no easy feat). The fantastic set is by Donyale Werle is part Raccoon Lodge, grandma's attic and taxidermy museum (with a big KFC bucket wedged into a chandelier). I did wonder if the ending needed a bigger bang, but when Cheryl and I discussed it afterward, we couldn't come up with anything. Benjamin Walker inhabits Jackson as if he was born to play him. All the other actors play multiple roles exceedingly well. I can't recommend it highly enough.
Photo credit: Sara Krulwich for the New York Times