When we are despondent and terrified, hope and sanity are found in the stories we tell.
That’s at the heart of Anne Washburn’s “Mr. Burns — A Post-Electric Play,” Scoundrel & Scamp’s current — and must-see — offering.
In the first act, survivors of an apocalyptic event that has made the U.S. dark and radioactive sit around a campfire and recount the “Cape Feare” episode of “The Simpsons.” They need to keep their minds off the nuclear plants that have failed and the bodies strewn across the country, and “The Simpsons” is a common thread between them.
Woven between the silly, scrumptious efforts to recall the episode is the great sadness that soaks these characters, who hope their friends and families have survived, but know they haven’t.
And, of course, it would have to be “The Simpsons” — the TV cartoon is a pop icon, a satirical show that has never shied away from examining issues that confront us today. The show easily and effectively takes on the environment, religion, politics, and plenty more.
The first act of “Mr. Burns” is present day. The second is seven years later, and the characters have taken their Simpsons’ stories — all riffs off of episodes — on the road, re-creating the shows and commercials in a world that is struggling to get back on its feet. Other theatrical troupes are doing the same, and there’s fierce competition for lines from Simpsons’ episodes and audiences. Chaos and crime are the result.
Finally, it is 75 years later. The Simpsons’ episode that they struggled to remember in the beginning has become a full-blown musical.
The story has evolved, of course, as all stories do. But this does not change: There is a wisdom and a comfort in the telling of them.
There is so much that is good about this Scoundrel & Scamp production, starting with a script that is smart and funny and nuanced.
Director/choreographer Claire Marie Mannle helmed a piece that could have easily fallen apart into a tight, clear and clever production that moved at just the right pace.
To a person, the cast slipped into the characters and made this almost sci-fi-ish play with a cartoon as its center feel organic and urgent. It’s impossible to single out any one performance: Julia Balestracci, Gabriella De Brequet, Adam Denoyer, Lance Guzman, Sean Patrick, Leah Taylor and Jeanne Torres were all impressive, with both the acting and the singing. We believed every moment of this unbelievable tale.
They were aided by Matt Marcus’ sound design, which took us from a crackling fire to birds singing and crickets chirping. Josh Hemmo’s lighting was as impressive — he dramatically simulates an electrical grid flicking on and off before it dies, and lights a world that has gone dark without ever sacrificing authenticity.
This is the official end of Scoundrel & Scamp’s first season. It makes us hungry for the next one.