Allegheny College Playshop Theatre Presents Audacious “Mr. Burns: A Post-Electric Play”

Feb. 16, 2016 — The Allegheny College Playshop Theatre presents “Mr. Burns: A Post-Electric Play” February 25-28, with shows at 8 p.m. on Thursday through Saturday and at 2:30 p.m. on Sunday in the Gladys Mullenix Black Theatre in the Vukovich Center for Communication Arts. Tickets can be purchased by calling 814-332-3414.

Anne Washburn’s “Mr. Burns” is an audacious and dark comedy about survival and mythology, set amidst the detritus of popular culture. The play premises that U.S. nuclear power facilities have gone belly-up, unleashing radioactive waste into the environment and decimating the populace. A band of survivors comfort themselves by retelling an episode from “The Simpsons.”

By the second act, as a new society and economy emerge, a traveling theater company performs live-action episodes of “The Simpsons,” including the commercials. By the third act, 75 years after the radioactive disaster and with the electric grid still not replaced, “The Simpsons” has morphed into a musical about good and evil, love and hate, and the continuation of humanity.

The show’s music is composed by Michael Friedman, whose credits include “Bloody Bloody Andrew Jackson” and “Pretty Filthy.” “Mr. Burns” is a mash-up of original music, alongside chart hits by artists including Britney Spears, Gloria Gaynor and Eminem, television theme songs and Gilbert and Sullivan.

The Playshop Theatre production is directed by Mark Cosdon, with music direction by Aimee Reash, scenery by Patrick Rizzotti, costumes by Miriam Patterson and a lighting design by Michael Mehler. The show features Alison Celigoi, Daniel Keitel, Mary Lyon, Bolan Marshall-Hallmark, Karina Mena, Aleäa Rae, Rachael Robertson and Benjamin Thomas. The play is stage managed by Stephanie Engel and choreographed by Leah Kelly.

“‘Mr. Burns’ is a play about the apocalypse, the primacy of storytelling, environmental catastrophe, the immediacy of technology, and the fall of civilization as we know it,” says Cosdon. “And from the ashes of that civilization comes a new form of performance, one which celebrates our determination to survive.”

Critic Ben Brantley, in the New York Times, called the play “downright brilliant” and asked, “When was the last time you met a new play that was so smart it made your head spin?”

Across its remarkable 27-year history, “The Simpsons” has satirized and illuminated basic truths about the United States, the family, popular culture and our institutions. “Mr. Burns: A Post-Electric Play” builds from a famous Simpsons episode called “Cape Feare,” spoofing Martin Scorsese’s film “Cape Fear,” the original 1962 film, and Gilbert and Sullivan operettas.

First produced in 2012, “Mr. Burns” is one of the 10 most produced plays in the United States this year.

The Playshop Theatre production contains theatrical prop firearms, recorded gunfire, fog effects and some strong language.

Tickets for “Mr. Burns: A Post-Electric Play” are $10 for adults and $8 for non-Allegheny students, senior citizens and Allegheny employees. Although admission is free for Allegheny students with identification, they are asked to make reservations.

Photo by Bill Owen. Left to right: Alison Celigoi, Rachael Robertson, Benjamin Thomas and Bolan Marshall-Hallmark