Ignore logic, have fun
Mr. Burns: A Post-Electric Play
So, there’s this play about life after a worldwide apocalyptic incident where few survive, and modern conveniences such as electricity and mass communications have been wiped out. A small band of survivors gather together and, for entertainment purposes, try and recreate the popular “Cape Feare” episode of The Simpsons. Over time, first seven years later, and then 75 years later, through collective storytelling and passed-on mythology, The Simpsons, as well as loads of other pop references, evolve and meld into strange legends and deep-meaning lore.
This is an overly simplistic overview of the complex and challenging plotline of playwright Anne Washburn’s Mr. Burns, A Post-Electric Play, now at Capital Stage. The play, a modern riff on a dystopian society is fun, fascinating, fantastical and often very frustrating. But seldom boring.
Washburn’s take on the staying power and deeper meanings of modern pop culture is multilayered. As is Washburn’s look at what happens when all that collective buzz is shut down and communication is brought back down to small tribe and person-to-person storytelling.
Too often Washburn overloads her ideas with too many obscure cultural and pop references while jumbling WTF plotlines. Since much about Mr. Burns is intriguing, if you go, put logic aside and embrace the overall premise—and watch the The Simpsons “Cape Feare” episode beforehand.
What elevates the Capital Stage version of Mr. Burns is the dedicated and enthusiastic cast whose talented members obviously revel in both the silliness and complexity of the script. There is both a joy and an allegiance that emanates throughout the production, and helps prop up the often vexing script.