STORY WRITTEN BY AARON WEINSTEIN, STAFF WRITER
PHOTO FROM CYPRESSCOLLEGETHEATER INSTAGRAM
Cypress College theater students performed Mr. Burns, a Post-Electric Play to a sold-out opening night audience on April 21.
As the doors opened and the crowd moved into the smaller intimate theater we got our first look at the post-apocalypse scene on stage. Mr. Burn’s, A Post Electric Play, directed by Jennifer McMillin-Brick, originally premiered 2012 at the Wooly Mammoth Theater Company in Washington, DC.
Mr. Burns, A Post-Electric Play, a black comedy featuring a variety of songs, was written by Anne Washburn with music by Michael Friendman and commissioned by the New York theater company The Civilians. It was nominated in 2014 for a Drama League Award for Outstanding Production of a Broadway or Off-Broadway Play.
Many of the students were excited when they figured out they were doing the play because it is more similar to our reality than we might expect, said Saul Cond, assistant director.
“Cause we just went through a pandemic and we lost a ton of … connection with outside people,” said Cond, “There was a lot of like pop culture that we kind of lost out on, and that’s what this play references.”
Through three acts the performance tells the story of a group of survivors of an apocalypse who try to hold onto the past by remembering and eventually performing an episode of “The Simpsons” titled “Cape Fear,” where Sideshow Bob tries to kill Bart while the Simpsons are on the run in witness protection.
Through the first two acts the characters are tense, on edge, and fearful as they try to remember the lines and plot of the episode. The second act continues to exemplify the struggle of the survivors and how they try to cope with holding onto civilization by preserving elements of pop culture.
The experimental performance takes on a play-inside-a-play style as the survivors become actors themselves, trying to recreate the episode. The emotional turmoil of the survivors comes through strongly as they struggle in their new world, and is juxtaposed with fun musical numbers featuring pop music that gets the audience laughing.
The set design and costumes tell a story on their own once the survivors become actors trying to recreate cartoon characters and a stage using the rubble and wreckage of society. “ It’s … the loss of media and pop culture and that connection,” said Cond. “It discovers people trying to refine that on their own, and they kind of take it a step further and reinvent it.”
The third act focuses on a performance that is mesmerizing and looks at how pop culture is remembered, and even changed to meet the needs of the survivors and the reality of their new world.
“Audiences should be ready to be confused,” Cond said. The costumes, characters, and music are both recognizably “The Simpsons,” but also unique and changed to tell the story of the survivors and the horror they face.