By: Jesse Shira
Actors’ Theatre opened their 36th season last week with the post-apocalyptic comedy “Mr. Burns.” The three act play takes the audience with them through the evolution of life after nuclear fallout in the span of roughly 83 years.
Act One begins seven months after the fallout and a group of survivors are trying to piece together the season five episode of “The Simpsons: Cape Feare.” They use this as a way to connect, cope with all the tragedy they witnessed and alleviate the stress of survival.
Act Two takes place seven years later, and the survivors have started one of many acting troupes that tour around performing episodes of “The Simpsons” and other parts of our current popular culture. The audience is able to witness what a rehearsal is like, from running scenes, lighting and prop construction to getting notes from directors and the inner workings of theatre.
After a brief intermission, Act Three comes in 75 years after Act Two, and this form of theatre has evolved into a very spiritual experience, much like how theatre was considered during the Greek empire. It is during this act the audience sees the culmination of decades of performances, thus the evolution of pop culture in a society from a simple ad we see on TV to this grand part of life.
“Mr. Burns” had the entire audience captivated. From the moment I first walked into the smoke-filled theater, I could tell something special was about to occur. When the lights dimmed and the actors took to the stage I could feel myself transported into this post-apocalyptic world. When they felt heartbroken from the loss of all those they cared about, the audience felt it too. And the audience laughed along with them as they sat around a fire piecing together “The Simpsons,” of all things.
As the play progresses, the audience feels like they have gone on a journey that goes through the entire history of theatre and evolves the characters we are familiar with into the mythological heroes of the future.
At its core, this show was about the importance of theatre and the need for storytelling in human society. Featuring great music, excellent choreography, brilliant costuming, and witty dialog that does not feel scripted, I can’t help but recommend “Mr. Burns: A Post-Electric Play” to anyone studying or interested in the history of theatrical arts.
“Mr. Burns” will run through Saturday, Oct. 8 at Spectrum Theater, 160 Fountain St NE. Each performance begins at 8 p.m. Tickets are $22 for students and $28 for adults with special $10 student rush tickets an hour before the performance.