Mr. Burns shines unconventionally & unapologetically

Dan School production highlights the importance of stories in preserving our humanity

Dan School production was held at Isabel Bader Centre on Feb. 27 and will end on March 7.
Credit: 
From Mr. Burn's event page's Facebook

Mr. Burns, a Post-Electric Play is an amalgamation of confusion and catastrophe that illustrates the importance of stories in a post-apocalyptic world.

The play is the second of two “major” productions put on each year by the Dan School of Drama, and was performed at the Isabel Bader Centre on Wednesday, Feb. 26—and will end on March 7.

Directed by Assistant Professor Kelsey Jacobson, this play combines elements of Greek theatrics, sitcom, and pop culture to create an unconventional yet compelling performance.

The plot revolves around a group of survivors trying to remember and act out an episode of The Simpsons in act one, a theatre troupe rehearsing this episode seven years later in act two, and a futuristic, chorus-style performance of the episode 82 years later in act three.

Both the cast and the set change in each act, resulting in sections that were disjointed but linked together by the obvious narrative thread of The Simpsons episode. By the end of the performance, the episode had evolved from just a game to pass the time to a serious symbol of hope and courage.

Mr. Burns showed that we as people cling to comedy and entertainment in the midst of crisis because it gives us something positive to aspire to, or a moment of comedic relief from an unpleasant reality.

The believability of the show was rooted in the committed ensemble. Hits like Britney Spears’ “Toxic” and One Direction’s “What Makes You Beautiful” surfaced in a song-and-dance montage in the second act.

The direction and costuming in the third act were crucial in selling the believability of the post-apocalyptic setting. Especially considering the fact that these characters are trying to recreate The Simpsons in the distant future without ever having seen it at all. They wouldn’t know what an episode was like, or what the characters looked like, aside from having heard about it from generations before their own.

Important ideas from the original show were present, like Marge’s iconic blue hair, but the characters were essentially dressed in togas and wrapped with Christmas lights. Chorus members were costumed as eerie, subversive interpretations of The Simpsons, with heightened Gothic makeup.

With two intermissions, the cast managed to keep the audience members absorbed in the world of the play. At the beginning of the play, they included in the dialogue an idea of what a land acknowledgment might look like in 80 years. After the first act, rather than a traditional intermission where audience members could stay in their seats, walk around, check their phones, and detach themselves from the play, the audience was led outside to a common space where the show continued.

One intermission featured a post-apocalyptic marketplace where actors would sell goods and offer quirky services reminiscent of the past. There was even one actress dedicated to performing TikTok dances and videos, forcing us to contemplate what entertainment we as audience members gravitate toward now, and whether or not our media would survive the test of time.

Although there were some holes in understanding plot and characterization, Mr. Burns may be one of the strangest and most original productions performed at Queen’s this year.

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