BWW Review: MR. BURNS, A POST-ELECTRIC PLAY at UCSB Department Of Theater And Dance
Let's begin in 1989, with the premier of cultural phenomenon and 25-year television mainstay, The Simpsons: the cartoon about the deeply flawed, "typical" middleclass family in a community of oddballs. It was cutting edge for the 90s, and the characters have become iconic over the last decades; but is The Simpsons significant in the ultimate history and destiny of mankind? In the UCSB Department of Theatre and Dance's production of Mr. Burns, A Post-Electric Play, The Simpsons is not only significant, it's a currency that determines characters' livelihoods--and potentially their survival. Mr. Burns, a Post-Electric Play, written by Anne Washburn and directed by Tom Whitaker, shows a glimpse of a future post-nuclear disaster, when electricity is an almost-extinct amenity. The play shows how the survivors of the disaster rebuild culture in a story that is an brilliantly inevitable as it is astonishing.
In turns hilarious and terrifying, Mr. Burns begins with a group around a campfire, trying to accurately recall the details of Simpson's episode, "Cape Feare," in which Sideshow Bob stalks the Simpsons family, who has been relocated to a houseboat on "Lake Terror" by witness protection services. The details of the episode aren't imperative to the play in the sense that if you've never seen The Simpsons, you'll still be able to follow the plot and underlying themes--but the details of the episode are of crucial importance to the characters. Massive nuclear disasters have culled the population and knocked out the entire electrical grid, and the remaining population is living rustically. Without entertainment on demand, people have reverted to oral storytelling. Remembered episodes of television have become the folktales: they express allegories for universal experiences of mankind while also reminding people who they used to be before societal breakdown.
Mr. Burns explores both the purpose of storytelling, and how stories evolve through re-telling from diverse perspectives, within diverse contexts. Without the ability to recall episodes with precision, different versions and interpretations of the stories are born. Mr. Burns shows an extreme example of how these versions are sculpted into the folklore of the new culture over a period of almost a hundred years. A play about the resiliency of humanity, Mr. Burns is an absurd, absorbing love letter to pop culture.
The cast (including Jeremy Scharf, Cordelia Watson, Amanda Lawson, Cooper Bruhns, Maddie Martin, Zachary Macias, Taylor Tuers, and Lexi Scanlan) is relatable and authentic within the surreal setting. Mr. Burns runs through March 12th at the Studio Theater at UCSB. Don't miss this smart, high-energy production--it's a wild ride!
Catch Mr. Burns, A Post-Electric Play Through March 12th!
Runs through March 12th