Brooklyn’s Piper Theatre company is awesome enough to put on free summer shows at Park Slope – and most recently they’ve mounted a ferocious production of Bloody Bloody Andrew Jackson, the rock musical by Michael Freidman and Alex Timbers.

Lay yourself out on the astroturf, pour yourself a plastic cup of wine, and steel your sensibilities against the whirlwind of rock music, outrageous comedy, dripping-wet sex, and gut-wrenching historical atrocity that is about to melt your face.


Bloody Bloody is, at its heart, a ballsy juxtaposition of interpretive historical commentary tempered by really, really dark comedy – one of the few kinds of humor that can make something like genocide laughable. With dark comedy, the less funny the situation would be in reality, the more funny it is within the joke – and with central themes like slavery, ethnic cleansing, and bigamy, well, this show had me rolling with laughter!

Sean Coughlin leads as the titular President, and it’s a joy to listen to him rock out. You’ll notice he uses a handheld mic throughout the show (which he sometimes keeps in a holster on his hip) – an appropriately rockstar choice, made even all the more rockstar by the fact that he’s using it because he destroyed two other face-mics by rocking too damn hard!

Coughlin expertly rides the fine line of his character, which oscillates between “most righteous hero ever” and “most despicable villain ever,” for the duration of the show.

Will Schnurr is credited as John C. Calhoun, one of our nation’s Founding Fathers, but his most powerful part is really the role of Black Fox – the Native American who betrays his own people to help Jackson subjugate them, works as his crony for years, but later pulls a Darth Vader and turns against his former Master – causing calamity to strike.

Indeed, the theatrical heart of the show is a beautiful exchange between Coughlin and Schnurr onstage that will haunt me forever….

Schnurr is a master performer, as Piper clearly knew, casting him in a variety of supporting roles throughout the show. He shines blindingly in each of them: from a throwaway ad lib (“Don’t worry about it!”) that absolutely killed, to his perfect portrayal of “The Transmittal of Syphilis” in approximately one-and-a-half dance moves, to his selling – and I mean SELLING – bigamy with a mere shimmer of his eyes… Schnurr is the type of actor who works onstage.

Actress Lynn Craig plays Rachel, the romantic foil to Andrew Jackson, and is just the right mixture of sex appeal, raw talent, and deadpan comedienne to sell it flawlessly.

The story’s narrator, played by Su Hendrickson, is delightfully ridiculous, occasionally inserting herself into the history she’s supposedly telling, only to earn Jackson’s dreadful ire. I don’t want to give away what ensues, but she’s got some seriously hilarious moments all to herself.

Jay Paranada is the embodiment of comedic relief, drawing show-stoping laughter from a singular roll of his massive eyes, and, later, dissolving the entire show into a blubbering, banana-eating mess via what felt like an unrehearsed ten-minute psychological meltdown on stage – to incredible effect.

Piper’s ensemble for this show is a throbbing sixpack of youthful energy, hemorrhaging sheer vocal power from start to finish (including an actual child, played by the delightfully sprite Hal Hobson). My only critique for the actors as a whole occurred in one or two mishandled straight-man roles; wherein a joke was delivered, but not responded to with proper timing, causing a lessening of its comedic result. The straight-man role is essential to quirky jokes being funny at all, since what the audience is actually laughing at is not the absurdity of joke by itself, but at that absurdity crashing into the brick wall of a contrary reality, which is the duty of another character onstage to represent. Often the straight-man side of a joke is harder to pull off than the goofy side.

Writing-wise, there are a couple popular music inserts into the show that, as a writer of musicals myself, makes me a little sad to listen to, while I watch the extremely talented members of the orchestra sit quietly by, waiting to play again. The numbers do have an appreciable effect within the show, but I wish the music team could’ve come up with original (or otherwise performable) music to use in those cases.

And as much as I laughed at this show (which was a lot), I didn’t find every joke appealing. Primarily I felt an overabundance of gay jokes was a bit tiresome, especially considering that the issue of gayness was beyond the purview of Bloody Bloody’s already extensive catalogue of issues-with-which-to-deal.

The story of former American President Andrew Jackson is a deeply interesting (and totally twisted) tale, one which we would all do better to listen to closely.

NOW’S your chance to see it done really, really well!

Particularly since it’s completely FREE (donations are suggested) – you have no excuse not to go, this Thursday July 17th, Friday the 18th, or Saturday the 19th – at 8pm.