Monday, September 7, 2015


Anne Washburn’s 2012 three-act play begins sometime in “the very near future,” after an apocalypse of nuclear proportions. The group of survivors in “Mr. Burns, a Post-Electric Play” travel with notebooks containing the names of loved ones. Everyone has a hunting knife or a gun, and lithium batteries are worth their weight in gold. They’re all essentially starting their world from scratch, and about the only thing they have to regain some semblance of the lives they had before, are stories. That’s where “The Simpsons” comes in.

The nation’s power plants have failed leaving everyone in darkness, and to pass the time and ward off fear, a group of survivors camped around a fire in the woods try to piece together the details of a 1993 Simpsons episode called ”Cape Feare” that was inspired from the 1991 psychological thriller Cape Fear (a remake of the 1962 film). In the episode, Homer, Marge, Bart, Lisa and Maggie enroll in the Witness Relocation Program and move to Terror Lake to escape Sideshow Bob, who after being paroled from prison has been threatening to kill Bart to settle a long-held grudge. This episode of “The Simpsons” is peppered with cultural references (as most Simpsons episodes were) -- everything from The Night of the Hunter to Gilbert & Sullivan.
Will Bonfiglio (Sam) and Jennifer Theby-Quinn (Maria).
Photo credit: Michael Young
Matt Groening’s wildly irreverent animated sitcom about an all-American family exploited just about every cultural reference you can think of during the show’s 26-season run, and more than a passing knowledge of it is helpful.

The second act takes place seven years later, and our survivors have evolved into a theatre troupe performing Simpsons snippets, along with nostalgic commercials about long baths, diet coke and delicious food -- the revered memories of what the world was like before the breakdown of civilization.

I don’t want to give too much away, but the script shifts between comedy and the grim realities our characters face, and the real ingenuity of Washburn’s script is the examination of how, over time, pop hits are turned into anthems and tv shows into Greek tragedy.

Maggie Wininger (Quincy), Chuck Brinkley (Matt),
Jennifer Theby-Quinn (Maria), Jared Sanz-Agero (Gibson),
Will Bonfiglio (Sam) and Rachel Tibbetts (Jenny).
Photo credit: Michael Young

This bold production is further proof that Christina Rios, the artistic director of R-S Theatrics and this show’s director, has no shortage of moxie, and she directs with a sure hand. The staging is innovative -- again, don’t want to give too much away, and the cast she’s assembled is just as fearless. Chuck Brinkley has an ease as Matt that makes you feel like you’re sitting with a buddy at a bar, while he intently tries to reconstruct the “Cape Feare” episode, with Rachel Tibbetts’s Jenny adding her own recollections. Jennifer Theby-Quinn is compelling as Maria, engaging with the telling of a story about the horrifying effects of radioactivity, and the excellent Jared Sanz-Agero as the newest addition to the group of survivors, Gibson, is very entertaining in the second act. Will Bonfiglio is an absolute knockout in the third act, as is Kay Love as Edna. Rachel Hanks as the spirited theatre director, Colleen, and Maggie Wininger as a quarrelsome Quincy round out the cast.

Maggie Wininger (Bart), Rachel Hanks (Lisa),
Will Bonfiglio (Mr. Burns).
Photo credit: Michael Young
“Mr. Burns, a Post-Electric Play” won’t be everyone’s cup of tea, and as interesting as Washburn’s ideas are, some of them border on wearing out their welcome, but this inventive dark comedy will definitely leave you with food for thought about the how the stories we tell change, along with the telling of them. It’s playing at the Ivory Theatre until the 20th. Check it out!


Written by Anne Washburn
Score by Michael Friedman
Lyrics by Anne Washburn
Directed by Christina Rios
Ivory Theatre, 7620 Michigan Ave.
through September 20 | tickets: $20 - $25, $75 VIP Price is for two patrons and includes reserved seating and 4 beverages
Performances Fridays and Saturdays at 8pm, Sundays at 7pm

Chuck Brinkley (Matt), Rachel Tibbetts (Jenny), Jennifer Theby-Quinn (Maria), Will Bonfiglio (Sam), Rachel Hanks (Colleen), Jared Sanz-Agero (Gibson), Maggie Wininger (Quincy) and Kay Love (Edna).

Assistant director, Sarah Lynne Holt; stage manager, Andrea Schoening; assistant stage managers, Nikki Lott & Nick Raghebi; production manager, Heather Tucker; musical direction by Leah Luciano; choreography by Cecily Daguman; fight choreography by Mark Kelley; mask design by Scott Schoonover; scenic design by Kyra Bishop; lighting design by Nathan Schroeder; costume design by Amy Harrison; assistant costume designer, Ruth Schmalenberger; sound design by Mark Kelley; properties master, Heather Tucker; sound board operator, Keller Ryan; costume intern, Claire Miller; artistic director, Christina Rios; managing director, Heather Tucker; associate managing director, Elizabeth Van Pelt.

Piano/conductor, Leah Luciano.

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