Mr. Burns at St. Ed's? Exxx-cellent!
Homer's boss visits the hilltop in Anne Washburn's hit drama
By Robert Faires,
3:10PM, Thu. Sep. 24, 2015
So how well do you think you know that episode of The Simpsons called "Cape Feare"? You know, the one where Sideshow Bob is trying to kill Bart on the houseboat? Well enough to recount the whole plot? To say how many times Bob steps on a rake or how Bart dupes Bob into delaying his murder? Enough to perform the whole thing after an apocalypse?
You weren't expecting that last question, were you? Well, I think it's safe to say that neither were the characters in Mr. Burns, a post-electric play, which opens this week at the Mary Moody Northen Theatre on the St. Edward’s University campus. But after a catastrophic failure of all the nation's power plants – hence the "post-electric" reference in the title – these survivors have little choice but to huddle around the campfire like our pre-industrial ancestors and swap stories of past glories. Which in this case means that animation staple for more than a quarter of a century, The Simpsons.
Playwright Anne Washburn, who told The Gothamist that she had long wanted to "take a TV show and push it past the apocalypse and see what happened to it," developed her script from a workshop in which she had actors try to recall an entire Simpsons episode from memory. From that premise, she spun out a future history in which the remembered episodes eventually take on the status of Shakespeare, being performed live by a troupe of traveling players, and then a few generations past that, evolve into a near-religious pageant, like a mystery play from the Middle Ages but with music and blue hair.
MMNT Artistic Director David Long likes to kick off the season with plays that play with dramatic form and challenge our sense of how stories are told – witness last year's 50-scene Love and Information by Caryl Churchill or any of his excursions into the gleefully anarchic territories of Charles Mee. Mr. Burns, a post-electric play fits snugly in that mold, thrusting us into a mad and madcap alternate world where we're prompted not just to recall an oft-quoted episode of a beloved sitcom ("But who'd want to hurt me? I'm this century's Dennis the Menace.") but to reflect on our culture, pop and otherwise – what holds meaning for us, what we're compelled to share, and what we need to preserve. Cowabunga, dude!
Mr. Burns, a post-electric play runs Sept. 24-Oct. 4, Thu.-Sat., 7:30pm; Sun., 2pm, at Mary Moody Northen Theatre on the St. Edward’s University campus, 3001 S. Congress. For more information, call 512/448-8484 or visit www.stedwards.edu/theatre.