Love never dies in memory.
In a not-so-distant future where the grid has failed, society has crumbled, and memories can no longer be stored on hard drives, a group of survivors come together to recreate their vanished world through the life-affirming act of telling stories under the stars. A love letter to live theater, and a hymn of survival and resilience (sung by America’s unlikeliest hero, Bart Simpson!), Mr. Burns is an exhilarating exploration of how the pop culture of one era might evolve into the mythology of another.
The New Yorker: “The Simpsons,” a starting point for Anne Washburn’s 2012 play, has been on TV for thirty-two years, only slightly shorter than the Hudson Valley Shakespeare Festival made its home at Boscobel House and Gardens, about an hour north of New York. Now the company’s tent is pitched a few miles away, on the former Garrison Golf Course. The town of Springfield, where “The Simpsons” is set, is dominated by a nuclear power plant owned by Mr. Burns, and the town of Garrison is just up the road from the plant at Indian Point, a site mentioned in Washburn’s intriguing work, which explores the forces of pop culture and myth. The setting is not just post-electric but post-apocalyptic, as a group of strangers uses storytelling as a means of survival, trying to remember the details of a “Simpsons” episode. The play’s director, Davis McCallum, leads an excellent cast through a landscape of humor and dread. By the third act, with music by Michael Friedman and the talents of the Shades of Springfield Chorus, the group has expanded into a full-blown Greek tragicomic ensemble. – Ken Marks
The New York Times: “To watch this feels pleasurable and painful and mysterious and weird. Or to put it another way: D’Oh.”- Alexis Soloski
Broadcast & Cable: Director McCallum and Washburn have been friends for years–”since I was a baby playwright and he was a baby director,” said Washburn–and he felt the time was right to perform it under the HVSF tent. “After 2 ½ years of the pandemic, and all the loss and the trauma, I thought, maybe this is a play that comes back to the top of the list,” he said. “It’s about human resilience. I thought it was a timely set of questions for this moment.” – Michael Malone
Nippertown: The grand production goes way over the top and pursues its natural inclinations to a mano a mano battle between Mr. Burns (Zachary Fine, deliciously unhinged) and Bart (The unlikely heroic Britney Simpson). The audience is enlisted to shout and stomp their feet to keep the forces of good alive and what do you know? We were a braying mob for Bart Thursday night- Patrick White
TheaterMania: Mr. Burns is a chilling look at a future that was distant enough 10 years ago to be slightly removed, but amid the Covid pandemic, the looming threat of climate change, political discord, and whatever else seems to be in the news today, is all too real. What would Bart say to that? “Ay, caramba!”- David Gordon
Opplaud: Starting out as a tense, emotional thriller, this “post-electric play” becomes slightly avant garde yet enjoyably comedic, as society adapts to a “new normal” far more traumatic than COVID-19… You don’t have to be a fan of America’s longest-running scripted primetime television series to enjoy Mr. Burns… Expertly rendered by the Hudson Valley Shakespeare Festival company in their tented outdoor space on the grounds of their new home, Mr. Burns combines the best of everything—high production value, beautiful setting, worrisome drama, quirky comedy, professional music and a small touch of audience participation—with just enough indirect experimental theatre, in the form of a play-within-a-play… Mr. Burns is unlike anything we’ve seen before, in the best-possible, completely-accessible way. ★★★★★ – Andrew Andrews
Cast & Creative
The cast for Mr. Burns will include Kimberly Chatterjee*, Kayla Coleman*, Erin DespanieCC, Zachary Fine*, Zoë GoslinCC, Merritt Janson*, Lauren Karaman*, Sean McNall*, Emily Ota*, Will Ormsby CaryCC, Luis Quintero*, Britney Nicole Simpson*, Destini StewartCC, and Roman Alec TrevinoCC.
Mr. Burns features scenic design by Peiyi Wong, costume design by Kathleen Doyle, lighting design by Stacey Derosier, sound design by Darron West, and prop design by Samantha Shoffner. Orlando Pabotoy serves as choreographer/fight choreographer, Kimiye Corwin will serve as the “chart hits” choreographer, and Saul Nache will be the music director. Julia Bates* will be the production stage Manager, and Janelle Caso* will serve as the stage manager.
The United States has experienced a widespread and catastrophic nuclear-plant failure that has destroyed the country and its electrical grid. After the disaster, a group of five survivors—Matt, Jenny, Maria, Sam, and Colleen—gather around a fire and recount the episode entitled “Cape Feare” from The Simpsons, Matt Groening’s popular animated series about a dysfunctional American family and the zany community of Springfield. In the episode, young Bart is stalked by the murderous Sideshow Bob. The episode contains a dense collection of many stories that came before it; most prominently, it is a riff on the 1991 Martin Scorsese film Cape Fear (starring Robert De Niro), which is a remake of the 1962 film (starring Robert Mitchum). The episode also contains kaleidoscopic cultural references to Mitchum’s earlier role in The Night of the Hunter, as well as Gilbert and Sullivan operettas.
As the survivors attempt to remember the events of the episode, they discover that memory is unreliable, disagreeing over who said what and how significant punch lines were worded. They are interrupted by the entrance of a new survivor, Gibson, who offers them information about what is happening outside their camp and tells them stories of destruction, evacuation, and power plants taken offline. The survivors compare notes and soon come back to the original topic of conversation: “Cape Feare.” Gibson helps them remember a punch line, the words of which they’d previously mangled.
Seven years later, the shared experience of recounting “Cape Feare” has been formalized into a much larger endeavor. The same group of survivors has formed a theater company that specializes in performing a small repertoire of Simpsons episodes, spliced with “commercials” about bygone luxuries and pre-disaster top 40 hits (sung a cappella). As they rehearse together, we learn that Simpsons episodes are being performed by others, as well. Lines from the episodes are currency; the characters compete with several itinerant troupes for the best and most accurate lines, paying audience members who can offer them longforgotten Simpsons snippets, for which they will then have exclusive rights. The troupe is anxious about whether or not their shows are good enough to maintain an audience.
It is 75 years after Act II. The Simpsons has assumed mythic proportions, and the “Cape Feare” episode has transformed into an epic opera in which Homer, Marge, Lisa, Bart, and Mr. Burns (the show’s heartless nuclear power plant owner, who has since replaced Sideshow Bob) are figures cobbled together from elements of the television show and the aftermath of the apocalypse; in addition to the morphed version of “Cape Feare,” the chorus dramatizes events of the past several decades through hip-hop, Gilbert and Sullivan operettas, and dialogue that the original survivors in Act I spoke around the campfire.
The first act is set in the very near future, the second act is set seven years after that, and the third act is set 75 years after Act II.
Both scary and sweet, funny but dead serious, unique and wonderfully theatrical.Time Magazine
Gregory, Lady Montague, Friar John (R&J); Colleen, Lisa, Marge (BURNS)
Merritt is thrilled to be working with HVSF this summer. Devoted to developing new work, Merritt has originated roles in Ruben Santiago-Hudson’s Your Blues Ain’t Sweet Like Mine, Robert Woodruff’s Notes From Underground and Autumn…
Nurse (R&J); Jenny, First F.B.I. Agent, Marge, Itchy (BURNS)
Lauren is delighted to make her HVSF debut! Off-Broadway: The Belle’s Stratagem (Red Bull Theater) Film: Release (Amazon), Duvar (Diversity in Cannes Official Select) Television: Catch Lauren as Kinsley in…
Abraham, Peter, 1st Nightwatchman (R&J); Shades of Springfield Chorus, Ensemble (BURNS)
Will is absolutely cheesed to be making his HVSF debut! A Brooklyn-based actor and musician, Will most recently wrapped shooting on the short film, Sanguine Father, and on an upcoming…
Balthasar (R&J); Shades of Springfield Chorus, Ensemble (BURNS)
Destini is a graduate of Emerson College and an alum of the Eugene O’Neill Center’s National Musical Theater Institute! Some of her previous credits include Ragtime (Sarah u/s, Sarah’s Friend…