In “Mr. Burns, A Post-Electric Play,” those details are found in re-enacting what can no longer be seen on TV since the grid exploded. It’s clearly a generational thing. Fans of the Simpsons will no doubt enjoy the retelling of episodes in all their arcane context, the rest of us will happily head for the exits.
Photo by Joan Marcus: Susannah Flood, Gibson Frazier, Matthew Maher, Sam Breslin Wright & Quincy Tyler Bernstine in Playwrights Horizons production of Anne Washburn’s “Mr. Burns, A Post-Electric Play.”
The campfire at which “Mr. Burns, A Post-Electric Play” opens is dominated by Matt (Matthew Maher), whose knowledge of uall things Simpson is unrivalled. And impressively boring. Matt is a raconteur who must recall every detail. “No, no, wait, it’s….”
|From “Mr. Burns…” Jennifer R. Morris, Sam Breslin Wright, Gibson Frazier, Colleen Werthmann & Susannah Flood in a photo by Joan Marcus.|
Who knew that a world after a nuclear apocalypse would be enlivened by live reruns of old TV shows and commercials? In the universe of “Mr. Burns…,” there is nostalgia for diet coke and endless unsubstantiated counting of how many have survived.
|Matthew Maher, Jennifer R. Morris, Quincy Tyler Bernstine, Sam Breslin Wright, Colleen Werthman, Nedra McClyde & Gibson Frazier in “Mr. Burns…” by Anne Washburn. Photo by Joan Marcus.|
All this makes “Mr. Burns…” an odd one-joke kind of tragedy. The characters are recognizably drawn from life. Many of them are the type who tease meaning out of trivia. There are the democracy-hungry, like Quincy (Quincy Tyler Bernstine), looking for a concensus on what will be agreed upon. The nitpicker for whom every suggestion seems like too much to do is Matt, ahead by a nose in front of Gibson (Gibson Frazier) who suffers from some of the same qualms.
The horror of end-times is trivialized, or maybe Samuel Beckett-ized a la Mod if not lite, in “Mr. Burns….” The troupe of Simpson impersonators at the center of “Mr. Burns” never really gets our sympathy for their plight.
Steve Cosson directs “Mr. Burns…” to bring out the ordinary in these extraordinary circumstances. BTW, The characters in the play are use the given names of the actors portraying them which makes one wonder if future (or past) productions will (have) rename(d) them for their starring casts.
Anne Washburn’s vision in “Mr. Burns, A Post-Electric Play,” is depressing. Not because radiation is annihilating humanity. It is depressing because we cannot be roused to care.
To state the obvious, “Mr. Burns…” is cartoonish. Well, duh!
For more information about “Mr. Burns…,” visit http://www.playwrightshorizons.org/shows/plays/mr-burns-post-electric-play/