July 10, 2015

Mr. Burns, a Post-Electric Play

In a post-electric world with no television, smartphones or computers, what does a group of survivors talk about? They rehash old plots of Simpsons’ episodes of course! This comedy tells the story of a post-apocalyptic world through the eyes of a small traveling band of people. It’s a strange show, unlike anything else you’ll probably see this year. It provides a surreal mix of humor and poignant reflection. 

The group, huddled around a campfire, finds a sense of connectivity in their shared memories of pop culture. They also try to keep the semblance of normalcy in the formality of simple tasks. By doing things “properly” there’s the illusion of calm in the chaos.


The cast is so in synch. They convey an instant sense of comradery when you first meet them. Eric Olsen, Jen Johansen, Eryn Bowser, Paul Collier Hansen, Paeton Chavis, Rob Johansen, and Ryan O’Shea work so well together. They provide our only view into this brand new world, but through their interactions we get a feel for the whole gamut of emotions the survivors must be facing.  

The staging is unique. It’s set in the intimate Frank and Katrina Basile Stage at the Phoenix Theatre, but audience members’ chairs are circled around a small stage in the middle of the room. Before the third act begins the chairs are moved to a more traditional set up. Courtney Sale’s direction holds the production together. The three acts can feel a bit disjointed as we jump through the years, but she keeps the focus on the people at the core of the show.


For me, the first act is the strongest. It’s easily relatable, because we can imagine ourselves in their situation. Act two lags a bit as it finds its pace. We pick up seven years in the future but it takes a minute to understand the situation. The third act propels us 75 years into the future and we have a chance to witness the new society’s form of entertainment. They have woven fact with fiction to form a new collective history. 

One of the most powerful elements in the play is the fear that creeps at the edges of each scene. Even when things seem to be going along swimmingly it lurks there. It reminds us that their society was forever altered by a nuclear event and safety is no longer something you can count on. Where life can vanish in a second, the focus on providing “meaningless” entertainment gains gravity because it allows people to connect with the world they once knew and still long for. 

Don't Miss the Show 
For more information about the Phoenix Theatre, visit www.phoenixtheatre.org. The theater is located at 749 N. Park Ave., Indianapolis, just off Massachusetts Ave. 

 Performances: The show runs on the Livia and Steve Russell Stage until August 9th and offers four performances a week. Thursdays begin at 7 p.m., Friday and Saturdays begin at 8 p.m. and Sunday matinees at 2 p.m. 

Tickets: To purchase tickets, call (317) 635-7529 or visit phoenixtheatre.org. Prices range from $20 to $33.


Photos courtesy of the Phoenix Theatre.

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