When I first read the title of this play, I instantly thought, “Oh Mr. Burns, like The Simpsons!” but I convinced myself that it couldn't be the same Mr. Burns. After all, what does Mr. Burns have to do with the post-electric? Apparently a lot according to the playwrights.
I think it’s interesting that the playwrights chose The Simpsons as the pop culture icons to showcase in Mr. Burns, a Post-Electric Play. The Simpsons have been a ubiquitous part of our culture since 1989 and will be going into its 26th season starting September 1st. The Simpsons has added words to our cultural dictionary (D’oh!), and has had practically every famous person in some way or another do a voice on the show. For instance, Queen Elizabeth II has voiced herself on the show and Elizabeth Taylor did the voice of infant Maggie Simpson in “Lisa’s First Word.” So it makes perfect sense to choose characters from a television show that have had such a profound effect on our culture to be the main characters of a troupe in an apocalyptic setting.
The playwrights mention that they chose The Simpson not only because it is a long-running television show, but also because The Simpsons is a show that has strong character archetypes and deals with the entire community. The title of the play is a nod to that, after all as Mr. Burns isn't a member of the Simpsons family, but he has no doubt influenced both them and our culture.
I also thought it was interesting that the characters in the play actually use the stage to cope with the apocalypse by performing in a stage troupe based on the Simpson episode “Cape Feare.” In this episode, Sideshow Bob, the former assistant to Krusty the Clown and escaped criminal, attempts to kill Bart because it was thanks to his efforts that put him in prison for attempting to frame Krusty for an attempted robbery. In this episode no one can help Bart; not the parole board who Sideshow Bob convinces to parole him; not the Witness Relocation Program, who give the Simpsons a new surname and a houseboat but cannot stop Sideshow Bob from strapping himself to the underside of the Simpsons’ car. It’s interesting that the troupe chooses this episode because it combines humor and terror. It’s terrifying to watch Bart have to deal with an ex-criminal trying to kill him, but it’s also funny to watch Sideshow Bob step on a lot of rakes and at one point get run over by elephants, and Bart even manages to free himself from Sideshow Bob’s clutches by asking him to sing the entire score of the H.M.S. Pinafore. Maybe the troupe chooses this episode as a guide for them for how to find the humor in the terrifying as they deal with the apocalypse?
Whatever the reason, I’m excited to see this play!