Arts Feature

Mr. Burns cast members strike an eerie pose. The play is on the boards at McManus Theatre from Aug. 29 – Sept 6. (Photo credit: Tallshots Photography).

Wortley Repertory Theatre presents Mr. Burns, a Post-Electric Play at McManus Theatre (471 Richmond St - inside the Grand Theatre) from August 29 – September 6. Tickets are $25. Call 519-672-8800/1-800-265-1593. 

Simpsons at the end of the world: Mr. Burns, a Post-Electric Play at the McManus

Amie Ronald-Morgan

After a nuclear holocaust, would there still The Simpsons? You better diddly-doodly believe it.

Wortley Repertory Theatre is set to present the Canadian premiere of Mr. Burns, a Post-Electric Play at the McManus studio theatre from August 29 to September 6.

Written by Anne Washburn and first mounted in Washington in 2012, the dark comedy asks the question: should life as we know it end, what stories would endure? With no electricity, no TV, and no Internet, how would people relate to and entertain each other?

Here, it’s through shared memories of The Simpsons, the much beloved and longest-running sitcom in U.S. television history.

“It’s a tribute to The Simpsons, and it shows the resilience of Bart Simpson throughout the ages. The show has been on for almost 30 years and there is a huge audience base. It explores how the pop culture and storytelling of one era might evolve into the mythology of another,” director Garrett Rodman remarked.

The grid is down. Society has fallen; millions have died.

“Act One opens in the woods with a scrappy band of survivors who are sitting around the fire and sharing stories, except the story is not their own – it’s an episode of The Simpsons,” Rodman explained.

“The characters are trying to recall beat for beat, joke for joke, the episode from memory and laughing again. Laughing means the world to them; it’s an escape,” he added.

That episode is the 1993 classic Cape Feare, in which Sideshow Bob is released from prison and sets out to kill Bart – a parody of the 1962 film Cape Fear and the Martin Scorsese-directed 1991 remake.

Fast-forward seven years and the group is now a Shakespearean-esque theatre troupe performing that same episode. The final act jumps ahead 75 years, where story has morphed into a kind of operatic Greek Tragedy meets Shakespeare meets Commedia dell’arte – a form of Italian comedic theatre that dates back to the 16th century.

Indeed, the script is an imaginative and interesting take on how the characters we all know and love (or love to hate, in the case of Mr. Burns) evolve and are shaped by the attitudes and beliefs of those making their way in a post-apocalyptic, dystopian future.

It’s not about The Simpsons per se, but rather what The Simpsons means to us, and the importance of storytelling. An essential aspect of storytelling in Commedia dell’arte is through the wearing of masks, which have been handcrafted for the production by cast member Nicole Alcaidinho.

“(Nicole and I) got together and looked at The Simpsons and examined how societal and archetypal figures came into play; how Mr. Burns is very similar to how villains and creepy old men characters were portrayed back in this ancient Italian theatre style,” Rodman explained.

“We didn’t want to go full-on Simpsons yellow so we chose gold for a more metallic feeling, which gives the masks some added creepiness and also makes for a little more of a high art version of The Simpsons. They’ve been turning out great,” he added.

The cast also includes Ian Badger, Luca Monti, Fatima Qaraan, Kayla Rock, Andressa Riveros, Kyle Stewart, Henry Troung, Alaina Walker, and musicians Éric Charbonneau, Jayden Beaudoin, Justin Rivet, and Chloe Weston. Mr. Burns, a Post-Electric Play is the inaugural production for Wortley Rep, which was recently founded by Rodman.

The cast is enjoying the creative freedom in mounting a show that hasn’t been produced very much yet.

“We’re really making it our own. It’s a really interesting show because it’s a play, it’s a musical, it’s a comedy, it’s a drama. So you have to have very resilient people in your cast. And they are definitely having fun with it,” Rodman said.

The show isn’t just for fans of The Simpsons. There’s enough food for thought and darkly funny moments in the show to appeal to a wide audience. Plus, Rodman pointed out, the future isn’t subject matter that’s tackled very often in theatre.

“People should check their sense of disbelief at the door,” he invited.

“Come in and have some fun.”




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