Wednesday, July 1, 2015


By Toby Zinman



By Toby Zinman

For the Inquirer 

Hipster history. Bloody Bloody Andrew Jackson, a rock musical by Alex Timbers and Michael Friedman, was an outrageous success in New York. But the Plays & Players production fell as flat as cowpie; what excitement there was felt forced, and despite the young audience, there were few laughs and fewer shrieks. Daniel Student’s direction seems slow and flaccid; the slacker delivery sounds as if they’ve barely memorized their lines. 

Jamison Foreman leads the onstage band, although there isn’t a memorable song in the 2 ½ hours. And it’s worth noting that the show’s running time was 90 minutes in every previous production. 

Joe Sabatino in the title role is decked out in tight pants with an American flag hanging from his belt along with a holster for a Bowie knife and another for a hand mike. His wife Rachel (Shannon Remley who is actually embodying a character, i.e., acting) and Jackson used to cut themselves—another way of showing us that the contemporary is less new than we may have thought.  We meet a variety of politicians ( played by Max Cove, Sam Nagel, Brendon Norton, Josoh Totora, among others) and Jackson’s friend Black Fox (Billy Kametz) the Indian who betrayed many tribes. 

The idea here is to follow the career of the seventh president of the United States, a frontiersman who drove the Spanish and the British and the Indians out of what is now the Western U.S., expanding the country to the Pacific Ocean. This involved a lot of blood mayhem.  

The show’s political incorrectness is a given, grabbing any excuse to make unlikeable characters gay and to make female characters (Allison Caw, Kristen Norine and Meggie Siegrist) slutty. The entire populace (then and, apparently, now) is assumed to be moronic, ill-informed and willing to follow any charismatic leader. There is something smug about this adolescent daring, especially with the cartoonish spurting of blood from every wound.

Seeing this show on the day of the swearing in of the current president of the United States, made the satire -- the paving of the prairie, the disappointment of the populist movement, fear of borders, and the bloody-minded, gun-toting American psyche-- seem obvious and childish; the whole show seems to be a snide Sarah Palin wink, asking us, “How’s this workin’ out for you?” 


Plays & Players, 1714 Delancey St.  Tickets $25-30. Information: (215) 735-0630Extended through Feb.10.


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About this blog

Toby Zinman's night job since 2006 is theater critic for the Inquirer where she reviews New York and London as well as Philadelphia. Her day job: Prize-winning prof at UArts, author of five books about modern and contemporary drama, and doer of scholarly deeds (winner of five NEH grants, Fulbright lecturer at Tel Aviv University, visiting professor in China). She was recently named by American Theatre magazine "one of the twelve most influential critics in America."

Wendy Rosenfield has written freelance features and theater reviews for The Inquirer since 2006. She was theater critic for the Philadelphia Weekly from 1995 to 2001, after which she enjoyed a five-year baby-raising sabbatical. She serves on the board of the American Theatre Critics Association, was a participant in the Bennington Writer's Workshop, a 2008 NEA/USC Fellow in Theater and Musical Theater, and twice was guest critic for the Kennedy Center American College Theater Festival's Region II National Critics Institute. She received her B.A. from Bennington College and her M.L.A. from the University of Pennsylvania. She also is a fiction writer, was proofreader to a swami, publications editor for the Women's International League for Peace and Freedom, and spends all her free time working out and driving people places. Follow her on Twitter @WendyRosenfield.

Jim Rutter has reviewed theater for The Inquirer since September, 2011. Since 2006, he covered dance, theater and opera for the Broad Street Review, and has also written for many suburban newspapers, including The Main Line Times. In 2009, the National Endowment for the Arts awarded him a Fellowship in Arts Journalism. Thames & Hudson released his updated and revised version of Ballet and Modern Dance in June, 2012. From 1998 to 2005, he taught philosophy and logic at Drexel, and then Widener University. He also coaches Olympic Weightlifting for Liberty Barbell, and has competed at the national level in that sport since 2001.

Merilyn Jackson regularly writes on dance for The Inquirer and other publications. She specializes in the arts, literature, food, travel, and Eastern European culture and politics. In 2001, she was dance critic in residence at the Festival of Contemporary Dance in Bytom, Poland; in 2005, she received an NEA Critics’ Fellowship to Duke University’s Institute for Dance Criticism. She likes to say that dance was her first love but that when she discovered writing she began to cheat on dance. Now that she writes about dance, she’s made an honest woman of herself, although she also writes poetry.

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