The Daily Gamecock

Review: 'Mr. Burns, a post-electric play’ shows story-telling at its finest

Show: "Mr. Burns, a post-electric play"

Where: Longstreet Theatre

Price: General Admission $18, Students $12, Faculty/staff, military and seniors 60+ $16

Rating: B+

The University of South Carolina Department of Theatre and Dance is now presenting “Mr. Burns, a post-electric play,” written by Anne Washburn. This dark comedy features a unique post-apocalyptic storyline emphasizing how survivors keep going after an unspecified catastrophic event. What makes it interesting is that the whole show revolves around an episode of the popular cartoon sitcom “The Simpsons.”

The first act opens with a group of survivors trying to recount the “Cape Feare” episode of the Simpsons around a campfire, which will become the focal point of the following acts. The cast did a particularly good job at transitioning from their lighthearted banter to the solemn dealings of the apocalyptic event. They were engaging and did an incredible job of making the audience understand what had happened without outright saying it.

The second act was a little more difficult to follow. Set seven years later, the survivors had become a traveling play troupe, performing “The Simpsons” episodes to provide entertainment in this post-electric world. At the time in the future that the audience sees, the troupe is rehearsing the very same episode that they recounted around the campfire. It was confusing at times because they transition from the play to “commercials,” but the kind of society that had developed was communicated well, without the audience ever seeing outside of the troupe’s rehearsal space.

My primary reaction to the third act is very simply: “What?” Artistically, it was phenomenal. 75 years later, “The Simpsons” had become a sort of musical pageant of the same “Cape Feare” episode. My only criticism of this is that it felt out of context to the rest of the play. In the second act, it was made clear that they were rehearsing a show, but it was hard to understand that this was meant to be a retelling until “Mr. Burns” engaged the audience to become involved.

Overall, the sets and costuming were fantastic, especially in the final act. The clothing and props available to the characters seem very reasonable for what you’d imagine people would have at these increments in time after a catastrophic event, with the least elaborate in the “present day” and the most elaborate 75 years post-apocalypse.

“Mr. Burns, a post-electric play” does a great job of showing how the ancient art of storytelling evolves, especially since “The Simpsons” is a fairly apt indicator of pop culture for the time in which the episodes air. I thoroughly enjoyed this show, and I think it’s definitely one worth seeing, even for people who aren’t fans of “classic” theater.

“Mr. Burns, a post-electric play” is showing at Longstreet Theater at the times listed below.

Saturday, Feb. 18: 8 p.m.

Sunday, Feb. 19: 3 p.m.

Wednesday, Feb. 22: 8 p.m.

Thursday, Feb. 23: 8 p.m.

Friday, Feb. 24: 8 p.m.

Saturday, Feb. 25: 3 p.m.

Saturday, Feb. 25: 8 p.m.