Mr. Burns, a Post-Electric Play Sep23

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Mr. Burns, a Post-Electric Play

Mr. Burns, A Post-Electric Play

By Anne Washburn
Music By Michael Friedman
Directed By Steve Cosson

 

Sam Breslin Wright, Colleen Werthmann, Jennifer R. Morris, Quincy Tyler Bernstine, Susannah Flood & Gibson Frazier. Photo: Joan Marcus

Sam Breslin Wright, Colleen Werthmann, Jennifer R. Morris, Quincy Tyler Bernstine, Susannah Flood & Gibson Frazier. Photo: Joan Marcus

What’s It All About?
It’s the Simpsons. It’s us. Set “near, soon,” a small band of survivors of a catastrophic nuclear catastrophe that has taken out most of the world’s population, pass the time recreating episodes from The Simpsons television show. They can’t watch it, because there isn’t any electricity following the disaster. Communications are sketchy too, and a visitor to the campsite might just be greeted with guns and brisk pat down. The survivors perform a ritual of sharing the names of their loved ones who are missing in the hopes that the newcomer has run into them on his trek through the ruined cities of Boston and abandoned Providence. Seven years later, the group has moved into a studio of sorts, where they produce episodes of the Simpsons, complete with commercials, as best as can be pieced together by their collective memories. The friends take on the various roles (the acting is quite good) while still letting us know that the world, and man’s greed for the supplies that still are available, is a danger that lies just under the surface. Fast forward 75 years into the future, and we have an operatic version that combines the memories of the nuclear holocaust with the Simpsons episodes, which make a statement about the myths that become reality as well as the enduring resilience of the arts.

What are the highlights?
An exemplary ensemble cast:  Quincy Tyler Bernstine, Gibson Frazier, Susannah Flood, Matthew Maher, Nedra McClyde, Jennifer R. Morris. Colleen Werthmann, Sam Breslin Wright.Cutting edge music from Bloody, Bloody Andrew Jackson composer Michael Friedman. Washburn’s play is smart and witty and is leap years ahead of anything we have seen on a New York stage as we hope the Armageddon-like future of Mr. Burns will be.

What are the Lowlights?
If you aren’t a fan of the Simpsons, and haven’t seen the Cape Fear parody episode which the survivors reconstruct, you won’t be totally lost, but you won’t enjoy this play as much as aficionados of the animated TV series. As good as Friedman’s music in the short second act is, the post-intermission part of the play seems forced and unnecessary. Somehow the shocking ending to the first act struck me as a better and more unsettling ending for the play.
More information:
Mr. Burns has been extended through Oct. 20 at Playwrights Horizons, 416 West 42nd St., NYC. Performances are Tuesdays and Wednesdays at 7 pm, Thursdays and Fridays at 8 pm, Saturdays at 2:30 and 8 pm and Sundays at 2:30 and 7:30 pm. There’s a special Wednesday matinee on Oct.  2 at 2 pm. Tickets start at $85:www.TicketCentral.com(212) 279-4200 (Noon-8 pm daily), or at the box office.

The play had its World Premiere at Woolly Mammoth Theatre Company (Washington, DC) in May 2013. The design team: scenic design by Neil Patel, costume design by Emily Rebholz, lighting design by Justin Townsendand sound design by Ken Travis. Choreography is by Sam Pinkleton and Music Director is Mike Brun. Mask and wig design is by Sam Hill, special effects are by Jeremy Chernick and fight director is J. David Brimmer.

 

Lauren Yarger is a member of The Drama Desk, The Outer Critics Circle and The American Theater Critics Association.