Exciting ‘Bloody Bloody Andrew Jackson’ rocks history hard at SF Playhouse

(Charles Kruger)

Rating: 5/5 » Outstanding

This reviewer is a member of the San Francisco Bay Area Theatre Critics Circle (SFBATCC)

“Bloody Bloody Andrew Jackson”, while rocking hard, takes its history seriously. Using rock and roll, off-the-wall humor, anachronisms and theatrical mayhem, Alex Timbers’ award winning script has a lot to say about the USA’s 7th President. A history lesson is rarely this much fun!

Jackson is a controversial figure among historians. To some, he is a malicious figure of Hitlerian evil, responsible for the outright slaughter of countless American Indians and the notorious “Trail of Tears” that killed countless more through starvation and hardship. He was also responsible for the doctrine of “Manifest Destiny” which continues to haunt our warlike nation.

On the other hand, Jackson founded the Democratic party, successfully challenging a one party system and initiating American populism to challenge the stranglehold on power of the New England elite. Over sixteen decades after his death, his championship of “the people” is still resonant.

He was brash, brilliant, bloody, outrageous, controversial, farsighted and generous. Many historians say that he, more than any other figure in our history, seems to epitomize “the American character”.

Ashkon Davaran (surrounded by ensemble) as Andrew Jackson in SF Playhouse’s “Bloody Bloody Andrew Jackson”. Photo Credit: SF Playhouse.

“Blood Bloody Andrew Jackson” successfully tells his story in 90 minutes of intermissionless theatrical joy. Ashkon Davaran’s Jackson is a convincing rock star: petulant, self-indulgent, childish, idiotic in some of his behavior, but full of passion, talent and intelligence. He is absolutely the star of the show, but he gets excellent support from a fine cast. Safiya Fredericks in the dual roles of Henry Clay and Black Fox is particularly moving. Black Fox’s (a fictional character) difficult position as a representative of Native Americans charged with promoting and executing Jackson’s oppressive policies is well portrayed. Ann Hopkins, providing narration as a stereotypically pedantic teacher, is very funny indeed.

El Beh stands out  in the ensemble, and is especially memorable singing a haunting variation of “10 Little Indians” while accompanying herself on the cello. Speaking of that cello, her rocking mastery of that instrument is a wonder to behold.

“Bloody Bloody Andrew Jackson” is a great theatre-going choice for this election season.

“Bloody Bloody Andrew Jackson” continues at SF Playhouse’s new home on Post Street through November 24th. For further information, click here.

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“Bloody Bloody Andrew Jackson” by Alex Timbers, music by Michael Friedman. Director: Jon Tracy. Musical Direction: Jonathan Fadner. Set: Nina Ball. Costumes: Abra Berman, Tatjana Genser. Sound: Brendan Aanes. Lighting: Kurt Landisman. Props: Jacquelyn Scott.

Martin Van Buren: Michael Barrett Austin. Rachel Jackson: Angel Burgess. Ensemble/10 Little Indians Solo: El Beh. Andrew Jackson: Ashkon Davaran. John C. Calhoun: William Elsman. Bandleader: Jonathan Fadner. Henry Clay/Black Fox: Safiya Fredericks. James Monroe: Lucas Hatton. The Storyteller: Ann Hopkins. John Quincy Adams: Olive Mitra. Lincoya: James Smith-Wallis/Daniel Vigil (alternating). Male Understudy (excluding A.J.): Vince Rodriguez. Female Understudy: Adrienne Walters.

Actor/Musicians: Drums: William Elsman. Cello: El Beh. Keyboard and Guitar: Jonathan Fadner. Olive Mitra: Bass. Ashkon Davaran, Michael Astin Barret, Lucas Hatton: Guitar.

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