“Bloody Bloody Andrew Jackson” at Arts West

This is no doubt the whackiest history lesson you’ll ever receive. But history lesson it is accompanied by primal rock music and performed by a cast of energetic and acrobatic young actors, who are little more than adolescents, in keeping with the immature nature of our nation’s political system. Oh yes, there’s a heavy dose of contemporary political commentary here hardly disguised by setting it in the 19th Century.

In Jackson’s time the country was awash in “likker.” Today it’s “tea” that overwhelms us. The insights into contemporary politics in this work are as sharp and cutting as the knife young Andy uses to slash his own body and that of his wife’s in their idiosyncratic form of lovemaking.

Jackson proudly proclaimed himself “the people’s” President. So many of those people came to the White House for his inauguration they trashed the place in their exuberance. Oops, I should have said the “white people’s president.” He’s the one who doubled the size of the Union but did it by exiling the Native Americans to desolate, unproductive lands so far west that many died along the way—a genocide that didn’t quite succeed. He was “Old Hickory,” a hero, a celebrity. Isn’t that what we are still looking for?

This is not a production for those who seek gentility and calm and abhor profanity. The book by Alex Timbers and music and lyrics by Michael Friedman require a rollicking, raucous, ribald staging, and Director Christopher Zinovitch and Musical Director Kimberly Dare have provided it in spades. The actors, led by Kody Bringman as a petulant, violent yet charismatic Andrew Jackson, have their timing just right and bring an infectious enthusiasm to the piece.

Rowdy it is, perhaps a little too long, but certainly jam packed with vigor and insight. But tell me please, in a relatively small house like Arts West, why do all the actors have to be miked in such a visible way?

Through Oct. 20, Arts West Playhouse and Gallery, 4711 California Ave. SW, Seattle, (206 938-0339 or www.artswest.org).

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