Past Reviews

Regional Reviews: Florida - West Coast

Mr. Burns, a post electric play
freeFall Theatre
Review by William S. Oser | Season Schedule

Also see Bill's recent review of The Drowning Girls


The Cast
Photo by The Photo Ninja
Mr. Burns, a post electric play, by Anne Washburn with music by Michael Friedman, is all over the regional map this season and so it makes its way to freeFall Theatre in St. Petersburg.

The play takes place after the electric grid has crashed, leaving the entire world without power. In the first act our characters sit around an oil barrel fire talking about an episode of "The Simpsons," trying to recall details. In the second act, seven years later and still without power, the same characters are attempting to put together some sort of entertainment that re-imagines the "Simpsons" episode from the previous act. In the third act, 75 years later a group of people, quite possibly the descendants of our original group, put on a fairly elaborate production based on "Simpsons" episode but wildly different, as none of these people have any direct knowledge of the original.

What playwright Ann Washburn is trying to imagine is how theater went from early storytelling to more and more elaborate entertainments. I did not comprehend any of what was going on on stage; I gained my first glimmer of understanding from the director's note in the program. I gained further insight when I visited the website of Lyric Stage in Boston, who are producing this play at the same time. I think part of the my confusion lies in the script itself, as Ms. Washburn is stingy with details regarding the actual situations our characters are facing in the apocalyptic world without power. Perhaps Mr. Burns, a post electric play would be a little clearer to audiences who are more in touch with "The Simpsons" as a cultural icon.

It is hard to judge the cast when I was totally not comprehending the play. They are lively and energetic and seem to convey the essence of the various characters. Once the entertainments are on in acts two and three, everyone seems very good. The cast consists of Hannah Benitez as Colleen and Lisa Simpson, Susan Haldeman as Jenny and Marge Simpson, Nick Lerew as Matt and Scratchy (a mouse), Kelly Pekar as Maria and Itchy (another mouse), T. Robert Pigott as Gibson and Homer, Christopher Rutherford as Sam and Mr. Burns, and Kaylin Seckel as Quincy and Bart Simpson.

Artistic Director Eric Davis directs, and his handling of the entertainments is very theatrical. Steven K. Mitchell's scenic designs are vivid, especially in the entertainment sections. Costume designs by Eric Davis and Kelly Pekar have the absurdist style that is often seen at freeFall and is in keeping with the play. Ryan Finzelber's lighting design tends toward darkness in acts one and two, perfectly proper considering the lack of electric power at hand. Power comes back into play in act three, but to reveal any more would be a spoiler of the worst sort.

Even with my new found understanding, Mr. Burns, a post electric play is not particularly to my taste, but freeFall Theatre's production is well done and reflects the theater's unique style.

freeFall Theatre Company presentsMr. Burns, a post electric play through May 22, 2016, at 6099 Central Avenue, St. Petersburg. For ticket and performance information, visit www.freefalltheatre.com.

Colleen/Lisa: Hannah Benitez
Jenny/Marge: Susan Haldeman*
Matt/Scratchy: Nick Lerew*^
Maria/Itchy: Kelly Pekar*^
Gibson/Homer: T. Robert Pigott*
Sam/Mr. Burns: Christopher Rutherford
Quincy/Bart: Kaylin Seckel*
*=Member of Actors' Equity Association
^=Resident Company Member

Director: Eric Davis
Musical Director/Arrangements: Michael Raabe
Scenic Designer: Steven K. Mitchell**
Costume Designer: Eric Davis and Kelly Pekar
Lighting Designer: Ryan Finzelber
Technical Director: James Zervas
Production Stage Manager: Timothy Saunders*
Master Carpenter: Matt Davis
Props Design: Erica Goldman
Scenic Painter: Allison Davis
Technical Assistant: Trenton Szabo
**=Member of United Scenic Artists Local USA 829 of the IATSE


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