Wednesday, April 18, 2012

“Bloody Bloody Andrew Jackson” Plays at Know Theatre

     Know Theatre’s Bloody Bloody Andrew Jackson vitally captures the passive-aggressive fury behind the sardonically bland face of the mumblecore generation.  The story is basically Andrew Jackson’s biography, though it’s been tweaked here and there and isn’t completely factual.  The two main conflicts in Jackson’s life were with the Washington elites, who did not want to connect with the needs of the Great Lakes population, and the American Indians, who had to be constantly moved south and then west so that European Americans could claim and own the lands they believed to be rightfully theirs.  

     The show is upfront in presenting the racist, genocidal worldview of the good Christian settlers, the Indians’ rage and despair, and the calculated self-interest of the elitist clique running the country.  It’s obviously an allegory for the cultural/political situation at play currently, except that Manifest Destiny stands in for Globalization.
Jackson personally paid an enormous price just to survive, but the tragedy is that he ends up selling out his closest friend, Black Fox, who had previously sold out his own people to prove his loyalty to Jackson.  And for what does he trade his soul?  He does everything he can to give the American people what they said they want, but then they’re not so sure they wanted it or if they should have wanted it in the first place.

Kellen York and the cast*
     If it sounds deep, don’t worry because it isn’t until about the last half hour or so and that’s a problem with the script.  For over an hour, it’s like an extended skit (Second City or Saturday Night Live or Sophomore Civics Class Shindig, take
your pick) and it’s highly entertaining.  Although Andy Warhol said the best parody of a thing is the thing itself, he didn’t mean it in terms of an Off-Broadway, Emo rock musical because this script moves from a parody to the thing itself and the changing gears just about wreck the transmission, to take an analogy too far.

     Know’s production is better than the script, starting with Eric Vosmeier’s sharp direction, an excellent use of the physical space in terms of Andrew Hungerford’s scenic and lighting design, and a pretty wonderful band.  Kellen York cuts a vulpine presence as Jackson and he’s very strong in the final part when things become grave, but he’s not a natural singer.  The songs require a vocal power that he doesn’t possess.  Datus Puryear looks like a black Hell’s Angel by way of AIM and becomes the emotional center of the show.  The rest of the ensemble is wildly enthusiastic and very engaging.

*photo by Deogracias Lermav

I just have one question…did Andrew Jackson like cats?

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