Mr. Burns – A Post Electric Play
Book and Lyrics by Anne Washburn
Music by Michael Friedman
Directed by Jeremy Seghers
The lights have gone out all over the world; something about nuclear power plants and cooling ponds all failing at once. People gather as best they can, compare notes on survivors and recall the glory days of television and indoor plumbing. We begin in the woods, some place outside of Springfield, Whatever State You Like. To pass the time, Matt (Jeremy Garibaldi) and Jenny (Georgia Rost) try to recall favorite “Simpsons” episodes. New comer Gibson (Alex Coming) adds to their narrative, and the news is bad: normalcy, incandescent lighting and cell phones are all gone. Life is grim and the population plummets, but survivors survive and begin to rebuild. In act two, we find ourselves five years in the future, and those Simpsons episodes now a valued intellectual property referring society to the glorious days of old. Our unhappy campers morph into a Community Theatre troupe, devoted to producing what Simpsons episodes they can barter for. It looks like Shakespeare and Ionesco and Albee have gone missing, and frankly, “Whose Afraid of Virginia Woolf” or “R&J” just don’t have the sparkle they once had. By act three, a life time has passed, and Bart and Mr. Burns evolved in to opera buffa roles, complete with flat singing and stylized paper mÃ¢ché props. Itchy and Scratchy cover the supernumerary’s jobs, and sword fights and word play fill in for special effects.
I may be wrong in my plot analysis, but we have a great “argue on the way home” production on this stage. The lost citizens of today, while armed, seemed open and welcoming, so long as a new comer could bring news and plot points. Then it’s on to a classical low budget Community Theatre and a troupe packed with crossed romances, dictatorial directors, and an innovative back stage team. Finally, their skills grow to bring in the older money crowd; many happy to sleep through the arias. The acting fits the level of development in each act, although act three songs sound rough. I’ll assume this is intentional; I find even the highest rated operas difficult to sit through.
Clever but low budget sets match the story line, and the apocalypse wasn’t so much a McGuffin as a device setting the critique in motion. Sometimes infuriating, sometimes enlightening, Director Seghers tackles an unusual script and turns its critical eye on his own profession. As apocalyptic entrainment goes, this show gets where its going without relying on the undead or the bounty hunter to make its point. I’m not exactly clear on what that point is, but here the debate IS the point.