Friday, December 3, 2010

History Just Got All Sillypants

What's that up in the air? Is it Spider-man from Turn Off The Dark?! Be careful of your wrists!'s just Andrew Jackson's horse hanging from the fairy light rafters of the Bernard B. Jacobs Theatre West 45th Street. Be careful of your fetlocks! It's a splendid performance  - a worthy follow up to his star turn in Sam Shepard's Kicking a Dead Horse.

Ben Brantley raved about Bloody Bloody Andrew Jackson when it was at the Public. That quite possibly could have been a different show than I saw last night which was a cross between Schoolhouse Rock and South Park.

I slipped in to see the seventh President of the United States and his dead horse before BBAJ closes after the Christmas run on Broadway.  There are many interesting parallels between Jackson and current political events, but they are obscured by an unremarkable score and remarkable fairy lights.

Benjamin Walker, as has been mentioned many times in many medias, has a breakout role as Jackson the Indian Killer, but it was really Bryce Pinkham (below) who helped me keep my annoyance in check, both at what was happening onstage and off - the person seated to my right laughed uproariously at every joke.

Pinkham's portrayal of Black Fox, the ahistorical amalgam of many Native American elders with whom Jackson bargained and ultimately conquered, saved me from the wretchedness of situations like the Wellesley lesbo-historian in the wheelchair (didn't I see this narrator in a wheelchair before in The History Boys AND Rocky Horror done with better jokes?). Facing the onset of the Trail of Tears, Pinkham's character inhabits quiet, sincerely emotional scenes in the midst of raging faux-emo chaos. He doesn't have to say a word to get his point across. The other characters? A few million nonsensical words will do.

Pinkham, Walker, the musicians, the antler chandeliers, the opening number, these make up the best moments of BBAJ. A low moment? The Founding Fathers inexplicably dressed with ruff collars, popular some two centuries prior to Jackson. Henry Clay (also Pinkham) has some kind of fetish about mink. Why quibble about collars, ruff or fur, when the whole show is anachronistic? Look at John Calhoun, Jackson's Vice-President. Do you really need to dress him in silly clothes to make him funnier?

Bloody, Bloody Andrew Jackson, written and directed by Alex Timbers with music by Michael Friedman, will be running until January 2.