Players by The Sea's newest production asks what will endure when the cataclysm arrives—when the grid fails, society crumbles, and we’re faced with the task of rebuilding? Anne Washburn’s imaginative dark comedy propels us forward nearly a century, following a new civilization stumbling into its future. Devlin Mann directs the pretty amazing paean to live theater, and to the resilience of Bart Simpson through the ages. Check out the details after the jump!
Players by the Sea, the extraordinary little theatre company out at the beach that has just been pumping out creative and contemporary theatre for the past few years has managed a bit of a theatrical coup by getting the rights to perform "Mr. Burns, A Post Electric Play" only three years after it debuted in DC and only two years after it opened in NYC at one of the most respected experimental theatre companies in the city, Playrights Horizons ( http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Playwrights_Horizons )
The turn around time getting new theatre to Jville has been exponentially accelerated over the past five years. (It was only five years from the 2008 debut of Passing Strange before it reached Players in 2013) Previously the community theaters had been featuring musicals written in the 1950s through the 1970s. A VAST improvement.
Mr. Burns, a Post-Electric Play was written by Anne Washburn. For a long time, she had been exploring what it would be like "to take a TV show and push it past the apocalypse and see what happened to it" and while she originally considered Friends, Cheers, and M*A*S*H, she ultimately settled on The Simpsons. Washburn held a workshop for a week in a bank vault beneath Wall Street which was being used as a shared rehearsal space in 2008 to see how much of any episode of The Simpsons the actors she had assembled, including Matthew Maher, Maria Dizzia, and Jennifer R. Morris, could remember. Maher knew The Simpsons well and the group decided on the 1993 episode "Cape Feare", based on the 1991 film Cape Fear, itself a remake of an eponymous 1962 film which is based on the 1957 novel The Executioners. He helped Dizzia and Morris remember the episode, then the two of them went on to perform it for an audience without his help; Washburn subsequently utilized recordings of this process in writing her play's first act.
The play, a dark comedy, was premiered in May 2012 at Washington, D.C.'s Woolly Mammoth Theatre Company by the theater troupe The Civilians. It was directed by Steven Cosson who got confirmation from several lawyers that the play fell under the umbrella of fair use. Cosson also directed the New York City production at Playwrights Horizons that premiered on September 15, 2013. Maher and Morris, who had not appeared in the Woolly Mammoth production, returned for the New York staging. At Playwrights, the show ran until October 20, 2013. It later went to Chicago's Theater Wit to play there starting January 2015, followed by a run with Cockroach Theatre Company in Las Vegas's Arts District starting April 2015.
The Players version is being produced by a top notch production team. Film producer and classical theatre instructor, Devlin Mann is doing one of his extremely rare directing jobs locally. Seasoned theatre and film professional Tom Fallon is doing set design. The amazing masks of the second act are the authentic Horizons masks from the debut.
I have sat in on two of the rehearsals, and it looks like Josh Waller is going to be the unexpected anchor of this show, which poses complex questions about myth making, the transmission of culture and the role of theatre and pop iconography over time. By the third act, the costumes are literally lush and oddly compelling.
Check out what the playwright has to say about her inspiration for the play itself, and check out the show during its very limited run.
Kudos to the Players By The Sea for apparently having an ongoing commitment not to bore audiences and bringing meaning to the idea of contemporary community theatre.
Its awesome to open a new show the same year that Chicago is opening it for the first time.
Get showtimes and tickets here
Playwright Anne Washburn on the creation of Mr. Burns.
Mr. Burns NY Premier at Playwrights Horizons
MATT/HOMER/SCRATCHY: Alec Hadden
JENNY/MARGE: Alix Hillary Bond
SUSANNAH/LISA/SECOND FBI AGENT/ITCHY: Ashley Augustyniak
SAM/BART/MR. BURNS: Myles Hughes
COLLEEN/FIRST FBI AGENT/LISA: Maya Adkins
GIBSON/LOVING HUSBAND/SIDESHOW BOB/HOMER: Josh Waller
QUINCY/BUSINESSWOMAN/BART: Kristen Walsh
DIRECTOR: Devlin Mann
MUSIC DIRECTOR: Stephanie Baston
STAGE MANAGER: Christopher Farrell
CHOREOGRAPHER: Jocelyn Geronimo
SCENIC DESIGNER: Tom Fallon
LIGHTING DESIGNER: Jim Wiggins
COSTUMIERS: Jane LaRoque & Christopher Farrell
ASSISTANT STAGE MANAGERS: Michelle Wiggins & Jerome Gallegos
PRODUCTION ASSISTANTS: Rhian Franchebois & Daniel Wiggins
BASSIST: Damon Martin
COSTUMES PROVIDED BY THE HIPPODROME THEATRE, GAINESVILLE, FL and JESSICA NILACALA KREITZER (HIPPODROME THEATRE'S WARDROBE SUPERVISOR)
MASKS PROVIDED BY PLAYWRIGHTS HORIZONS, NEW YORK CITY, NY.