Posted in absurdist, Anne Washburn, Apocalypse, Bart Simpson, cartoon, The Simpsons

Surviving With Bart In Anne Washburn’s "Mr. Burns…"

 Survival may well be in the smallest of small details.

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/

Posted in Adam Rapp, allegory, Apocalypse, dark drama, New York City, strange, war

Apocalypse Now in "Through The Yellow Hour"

War is chaotic.

In “Through The Yellow Hour,” at Rattlestick Playwrights Theater through October 28th, playwright and directorAdam Rapp visits an apocalypse on New York City.

Rapp is no stranger to the odd and allegorical. (“Dreams of Flying , Dreams of Falling” is one that comes to mind as a for instance.)

Photo © Sandra Coudert.
Alok Tewari, Danielle Slavick,
Hani Furstenberg, Matt Pilieci,
Vladimir Versailles, Brian Mendes,
and Joanne Tucker 

Everything in “Through The Yellow Hour” is site specific. The city has been attacked by the Egg Heads, who are systematically killing off the populaton. Ellen (Hani Furstenberg) is holed up in her East Village apartment, waiting for her husband Paul to return. She is the ultimate survivor, trading for foodstuffs and drugs through a network outside her well-fortified door. The first of the nightmares from outside creeps in through a window and ends as the Dead man (Brian Mendes), slumped on the floor for the rest of the play.

There is safety in Pennsylvania, as Maude (Danielle Slavick) tells her when she drops off her baby girl in exchange for a fix.    “There are barges you can get on. They’re traveling south along the shallows of Lake Erie,” she says. When Ellen responds that her plans for escape are “risky,” Maude says  “No riskier than staying here.” Gunfire and the occasional explosion punctuate the dialogue, in “Through The Yellow Hour,” like a soundtrack of terror, designed by Christian Frederickson. 

Hani Furstenberg as Ellen and Vladimir Versailles as Darius in Adam Rapp’s “Through The Yellow Hour.”
Photo © Sandra Coudert.

The end of times vision  in “Through The Yellow Hour” is further accentuated by the elaborately derelect sets by Andromache  Chalfant, and moody lighting of Keith Parham. This is a mesmerizing and puzzling drama, with a superb cast led by Hani Furstenberg.

For more information about “Through The Yellow Hour” and tickets, visit Rattlestick Playwrights Theater.