The time is now or just a bit beyond now. There has been an apocalyptic event, a pandemic that has claimed many lives. Things are getting dicier all the time in Mr. Burns, a Post-Electric Play, about to be performed at Obsidian Theater.
"There's been such a problem with the pandemic that most of the nuclear plants in the United States have had catastrophes because there weren't enough people to deal with them and when the lights go out and the electricity go out, the regular fuel and the spent fuel both start burning and exploding," says Tom Stell, who'll be directing the 11-member cast in this three-act play. "So one of the themes throughout this show is where are the nuclear plants, how dangerous are they, how far away do you have to be?"
A small group of survivors is together, still trying to figure out where “safe” is, when as a means of entertaining themselves, they begin recalling an episode of The Simpsons TV show called "Cape Feare" – when Sideshow Bob comes back to Springfield and threatens Bart; you remember, don’t you?
And the Simpsons are in Springfield, which is a famous town for having a nuclear power plant, which fits very well into the narrative written by playwright Anne Washburn, Stell says. .
The first act of Mr. Burns, a Post-Electric Play is a straight play with a straightforward story to tell, says Stell.
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Act 2 morphs into something else. It’s seven years later and the survivors have become a theater troupe, acting out works from The Simpsons. There’s songs and dancing and a chorus of actors.
“The third act is set 75 years in the future. The Simpsons have become like Shakespeare. They’re not really the Simpsons anymore,” Stell says. The actors' memories of the show have changed it into something else entirely, he says. "In a sense one of the themes of this play is what stories do we tell ourselves and how do these stories change over time?" Stell says.
If that sounds all a bit too weird for you, know that Ben Brantley of The New York Times called the play “downright brilliant” and said it “has depths of feeling to match its breadth of imagination.”
Performances are scheduled for October 26 through November 18 at 8 p.m. Thursdays through Saturdays, 3 p.m. Sunday November 12 and 8 p.m. Monday November 6 (Industry Night) at Obsidian Theater, 3522 White Oak. For information, call 832-889-7837 or visit obsidiantheater.org. $20 students, $30 adults.