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Post-Apocalypse Simpsons in Luminous Theatre’s ‘Mr. Burns’

Apr. 25, 2017
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Rachael Zientek, Jordan Gwiazdowski, Hannah Ripp-Dieter in MR. BURNS with Luminous Theatre - Jason Fassl

Leda Hoffman directs Luminous Theatre’s post-apocalyptic comedy, Mr. Burns, a Post-Electric Play in the Goat Palace, a warehouse space in Riverwest. In act one, actors and audience huddle outside around a fire. Playwright Anne Washburn provides little formal explanation: There was a pandemic. A lot of death. Nuclear power plants broke down. There was radiation. 

Everyone reacts to stress differently. Kelly Doherty plays with haunting exhaustion; James Carrington exudes a restless need to think about something else, so everyone assembled gets lost in the trivia of an old episode of “The Simpsons.” Act two moves inside. Years after the apocalypse, many have died and many basic amenities are still lacking, but we’ve got a very elaborate touring theater circuit. We’re Americans. We need to be entertained and distracted. Infrastructure can wait.

Dylan Bolin and Hannah Ripp-Dieter are impressively organic as actors rehearsing a stage adaptation of “The Simpsons” episode from act one. With no products to advertise, staged commercials take the form of Ripp-Dieter playing a stunningly beautiful woman acting out a flimsy narrative. Her commercial character is returning home from a day at work and simply talking about products that existed before the war. This is advertising in a world without products: a fantasy of the mundane.

The final act remains inside. It’s 75 years later, and old “Simpsons” narratives mix with the mutated history of civilization surviving the apocalypse in a pseudo-religious pageant featuring a charmingly mytho-heroic Rachael Zientek as Bart Simpson squaring-off against the staggeringly precise, Silver Age comic book-style villainy of Jordan Gwiazdowski in the role of a devil named Mr. Burns.

Through May 8 at the Goat Palace, 3740 N. Fratney St. in Riverwest. For more information, visit luminoustheatre.com.

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