‘Mr. Burns, a Post-Electric Play’ plays at Theater Wit (1229 W Belmont Ave) through October 31st.
Price of admission is $20-$54. Book tickets here.
Guests need to show proof of vaccination or a negative COVID PCR test administered in the last 48 hours.
‘Mr. Burns, a Post-Electric Play’ is not a performance I would call predictable. The post-apocalyptic play, premiered in 2012, tells the story of a group of survivors telling and portraying an episode from The Simpsons – ‘Cape Feare’, one of the show’s most memorable and to some, darkest episodes.
The three acts of the play feature three different portrayals of the episode. The first, right after (or perhaps during) the apocalyptic events, depicts the group of survivors recollecting the play from memory – reciting it for their own benefit. The second act, which takes place seven years later, shows them performing it for an audience. And the final act – seventy-five years after that – shows the performers enacting a far more dramatic version, representing the long-term impact of the apocalyptic events decades after the original events.
My friend and I chose to watch ‘Cape Feare’ prior to the play, to become familiar with the themes and references in the play. Another approach, though, would be to go in blind and be surprised by what you see – not a bad way to go. I’m sure some attendees watched the episode years ago, and hazily remember certain parts, a testament to the durability of pop culture.
Whether or not you watch the episode again, prepare yourself to be surprised, shocked, and sometimes amused by the twists in ‘Mr. Burns’. Watching the episode prepares you in name only; in no way is the play solely a rendition of the episode as aired.
Where Mr Burns Excels:
Acting: As you would expect from a dramatic post-apocalyptic play, ‘Mr. Burns’ takes the viewer through a milieu of emotions. From a sense of unease in Act 1, to peer-through-your-hands horror in Act 3, the cast of ‘Mr. Burns does a fantastic job in taking the viewer along for the ride. Several scenes and dialogue were able to rise and fall in intensity within seconds. The cast’s versatility is quite impressive.
Song & Dance: Mr. Burns eases viewers into its song and dance, reaching a climax in the third act. From twisted pop songs to moving acapella, the cast performs admirably as a vocal ensemble and had no problem handling the musical demands. The musical third act was strongly rooted in dramatic and operatic ballads, song, and dance.
Venue: Theater Wit is a charming small-theater venue in the Lakeview area. From the moment you walk in, it is obvious that all space is efficiently employed- from the bar, seen as soon as you enter, to the hundred-seater theater. For convenience, you can pre-order cocktails and have them waiting for you at the intermission. We could tell that several patrons were very happy to return after a long absence due to COVID. ‘Mr. Burns’ is a play of many emotions, and the intimate venue Theater Wit offers is more than able to do it justice.
Costume Design: Especially in Act 3, my friend and I were very surprised and impressed with the costume design, particularly those of some of ‘The Simpsons’ family. Bart Simpson, for example, was dressed in blue shorts made of Ikea tarp material, and his red shirt sleeves consisted of solo cups. This is a reflection of the post-apocalyptic nature of the play, and drew understanding nods from the audience.
Decor/Props: Emerging from a post-apocalypse, I wasn’t expecting much in terms of set design or props. The play opens around a campfire; that is the only lighting used for the act. The set design follows the harsh, makeshift efforts to rebuild civilization, becoming more complex with each act. The set keeps the audience within the universe established, and each act creatively uses the stage space. The play featured a few welcome humorous touches – such as the inanimate portrayal of baby Maggie Simpson (you have to be there!).
(Only) A Few Negatives:
Length: ‘Mr. Burns’ is split into 3 acts each of about 50 minutes in duration – you should be ready to spend an entire evening watching this play. However, each block of 50 minutes goes by fairly quickly.
A Sign of the Times: As my first theater experience since the onset of COVID-19, the post-apocalyptic nature of this play did hit a little close to home. The play features themes of hardship and violence – potential viewers should be aware of this before signing up!
My friend and I had a lovely evening at Theater Wit. The play was entertaining and fit the intimate venue very well. We certainly encourage you to check out this unconventional performance!
You may also be interested in our review of the Drunk Shakespeare Chicago play.