Panicked survivors of the end of the world sang pop hits and portrayed the episode “Cape Feare” from “The Simpsons” with impressively accurate detail in Cal State Fullerton’s theater production of “Mr. Burns: A Post Electric Play” on Nov. 9. “Mr. Burns: A Post Electric Play” showed audiences what can occur when a pop-culture staple like the “The Simpsons” is slowly reinterpreted under the stress of an apocalypse to become something so eerie that it’s almost unrecognizable.
The play, which was written by Anne Washburn, wasn’t an easy story to tell; the writing is a bit rushed, and the context for the actual apocalypse isn’t very clear. Without steady direction or focus, it could leave audiences in a delirious rollercoaster of storytelling until the end of the show.
However, Director Kyle Cooper managed to slow down the pace for audiences to truly settle in and examine the larger commentary that Washburn makes.
During the first act of the play, the episode “Cape Feare” was described by scrappy survivors who were looking for a distraction to bide some time as the nuclear apocalypse took place.
The first part of the play served as a refresher for those who did not remember or do not know the episode well, and helped establish a connection between the depressing circumstances the survivors were in and the dark comedy that “The Simpsons” are well-known for.
Maria (Darby Sorich) and Quincy (Isobel Beaman) gave notable performances during the first part of the play. Sorich portrayed Maria as both thoughtful and kind and her parts helped slow down the rapid pacing of the show.
Meanwhile, Beaman’s performance was vibrant as she bloomed into her character. With great comedic timing and a bold and daring performance, Beaman’s character was truly noteworthy.
During some moments of the first part, the other actors and actresses felt more like caricatures instead of characters, but this occurred more so during the beginning of the play when it wasn’t entirely clear as to what was happening. While the dim lighting partly helped to set a more unsettling mood, it also made it challenging to see their expressions at times.
After leaving the audience on a dark and twisted note right before intermission, the second half of the play brought a melodramatic and warped reinterpretation of the Simpsons family to the forefront.
The Simpsons family was played by Genevieve Kauper, Corinn Szostkiewicz, Charles Garcia and Olivia Kridle. They served as an essential reflection of post-apocalyptic life and escapism, and delivered remarkable performances. Their characters had experienced what survivors in the first act endured, but still followed the familiar plot of “The Simpsons” episode.
Mr. Burns (Evan Borboa) also delivered a chilling performance as the epitome of all evil, embracing a sultry, yet violent take as the owner of Springfield’s power plant.
Makeup and costumes for “The Simpsons” characters were spot on; the clothing is easily recognizable to fit the iconic characters, but the makeup is freaky and messy enough to show how the story had become incredibly dark and the characters had become distorted.
While “Mr. Burns: A Post Electric Play” is an unsettling, and at times a melodramatic, reinterpretation of the lovable Simpsons family, its creativity and boldness in CSUF’s theater production is definitely worth the watch for anyone who enjoys dark humor.
CSUF’s “Mr. Burns: A Post Electric Play” runs from Nov. 9 to Dec. 2 at the Young Theatre, with tickets at $14 each for non-students and $12 each for students.[slideshow_deploy id=’124448’]