Monday, September 23, 2013

Quick Hit Off-Broadway Theater Review: Mr. Burns, a Post-Electric Play

Sam Breslin Wright, Colleen Werthmann, Jennifer R. Morris, Quincy Tyler Bernstine, Susannah Flood & Gibson Frazier. Photo: Joan Marcus
Mr. Burns, A Post-Electric Play
By Anne Washburn
Music By Michael Friedman
Directed By Steve Cosson
Playwrights Horizons

What's It All About?
It's the Simpsons. It's us. Set "near, soon," a small band of survivors of a catastrophic nuclear catastrophe that has taken out most of the world's population, pass the time recreating episodes from The Simpsons television show. They can't watch it, because there isn't any electricity following the disaster. Communications are sketchy too, and a visitor to the campsite might just be greeted with guns and brisk pat down. The survivors perform a ritual of sharing the names of their loved ones who are missing in the hopes that the newcomer has run into them on his trek through the ruined cities of Boston and abandoned Providence. Seven years later, the group has moved into a studio of sorts, where they produce episodes of the Simpsons, complete with commercials, as best as can be pieced together by their collective memories. The friends take on the various roles (the acting is quite good) while still letting us know that the world, and man's greed for the supplies that still are available, is a danger that lies just under the surface. Fast forward 75 years into the future, and we have an operatic version that combines the memories of the nuclear holocaust with the Simpsons episodes, which make a statement about the myths that become reality as well as the enduring resilience of the arts.

What are the highlights?
An exemplary ensemble cast:  Quincy Tyler Bernstine, Gibson Frazier, Susannah Flood, Matthew Maher, Nedra McClyde, Jennifer R. Morris. Colleen Werthmann, Sam Breslin Wright.Cutting edge music from Bloody, Bloody Andrew Jackson composer Michael Friedman.Washburn's play is smart and witty and as leap years ahead of anything we have seen on a New York stage as we hope the Armageddon-like future of Mr. Burns will be.

What are the Lowlights?
If you aren't a fan of the Simpsons, and haven't seen the Cape Fear parody episode which the survivors reconstruct, you won't be totally lost, but you won't enjoy this play as much as aficionados of the animated TV series. As good as Friedman's music in the short second act is, the post-intermission part of the play seems forced and unnecessary. Somehow the shocking ending to the first act struck me as a better and more unsettling ending for the play.

More information:
Mr. Burns has been extended through Oct. 20 at Playwrights Horizons, 416 West 42nd St., NYC. Performances are Tuesdays and Wednesdays at 7 pm, Thursdays and Fridays at 8 pm, Saturdays at 2:30 and 8 pm and Sundays at 2:30 and 7:30 pm. There’s a special Wednesday matinee on Oct.  2 at 2 pm. Tickets start at $85: 279-4200 (Noon-8 pm daily), or at the box office.

The play had its World Premiere at Woolly Mammoth Theatre Company (Washington, DC) in May 2013. The design team: scenic design by Neil Patel, costume design by Emily Rebholz, lighting design by Justin Townsendand sound design by Ken Travis. Choreography is by Sam Pinkleton and Music Director is Mike Brun. Mask and wig design is by Sam Hill, special effects are by Jeremy Chernick and fight director is J. David Brimmer.

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Our reviews are professional reviews written without a religious bias. At the end of them, you can find a listing of language, content or theological issues that Christians might want to know about when deciding which shows to see.

** Mature indicates that the show has posted an advisory because of content. Usually this means I would recommend no one under the age of 16 attend.

Theater Critic Lauren Yarger

Theater Critic Lauren Yarger

My Bio

Lauren Yarger has written, directed and produced numerous shows and special events for both secular and Christian audiences. She co-wrote a Christian musical version of “A Christmas Carol” which played to sold-out audiences of over 3,000 in Vermont and was awarded the Vermont Bessie (theater and film awards) for “People’s Choice for Theatre.” She also has written two other dinner theaters, sketches for church services and devotions for Christian artists. Her play concept, "From Reel to Real: The Jennifer O'Neill Story" was presented as part of the League of professional Theatre Women's Julia's reading Room Series in New York in February 2018.

Yarger trained for three years in the Broadway League’s Producer Development Program, completed the Commercial Theater Institute's Producing Three-Day Intensive and other training and produced a one-woman musical about Mary Magdalene that toured nationally and closed with an off-Broadway run.

She was a Fellow at the National Critics Institute at the O'Neill Theater Center in Waterford, CT. She writes reviews of Broadway and off-Broadway theater (the only ones you can find in the US with an added Christian perspective) at

She is editor of The Connecticut Arts Connection (, an award-winning website featuring theater and arts news for the state. She is a contributing editor for She previously served as theater reviewer for the Manchester Journal-Inquirer, Connecticut theater editor for and as Connecticut and New York reviewer for American Theater Web.

She is a Co-Founder of the Connecticut Chapter of the League of Professional Theatre Women. She is a former vice preseint and voting member of The Drama Desk.

She is a freelance writer and playwright (member Dramatists Guild of America). She is a member if the The Outer Critics Circle (event manager for the annual awards ceremony), The American Theater Critics Association, The League of Professional Theatre Women and the Drama League. She served as a judge for the SDX Awards presented by the Society of Professional Journalists.

Yarger is a book reviewer for Publishers Weekly and freelances for other sites. She is a member of the National Book Critics Circle.

She also is a member of the Episcopal Actors' Guild, the NY Public Library for the Performing Arts and The O'Neill Theatre Center..

A former newspaper editor and graduate of the University of Missouri’s School of Journalism, Yarger also worked in arts management for the Bushnell Center for the Performing Arts, the Hartford Symphony Orchestra and served for nine years as the Executive Director of Masterwork Productions, Inc. She lives with her husband in West Granby, CT. They have two adult children.


All material is copyright 2008- 2018 by Lauren Yarger. Reviews and articles may not be reprinted without permission. Contact


Key to Content Notes:

God's name taken in vain -- means God or Jesus is used in dialogue without speaking directly to or about them.

Language -- means some curse words are used. "Minor" usually means the words are not too strong or that it only occurs once or twice throughout the show.

Strong Language -- means some of the more heavy duty curse words are used.

Nudity -- means a man or woman's backside, a man's lower front or a woman's front are revealed.

Scantily clad -- means actors' private areas are technically covered, but I can see a lot of them.

Sexual Language -- means the dialogue contains sexually explicit language but there's no action.

Sexual Activity -- means a man and woman are performing sexual acts.

Adultery -- Means a married man or woman is involved sexually with someone besides their spouse. If this is depicted with sexual acts on stage, the list would include "sexual activity" as well.

Sex Outside of Marriage -- means a man and woman are involved sexually without being married. If this is depicted sexually on stage, the list would include "sexual activity" as well.

Homosexuality -- means this is in the show, but not physically depicted.

Homosexual activity -- means two persons of the same sex are embracing/kissing. If they do more than that, the list would include "sexual activity" as well.

Cross Dresser -- Means someone is dressing as the opposite sex. If they do more than that on stage the listing would include the corresponding "sexual activity" and/or "homosexual activity" as well.

Cross Gender -- A man is playing a female part or a woman is playing a man's part.

Suggestive Dancing -- means dancing contains sexually suggestive moves.

Derogatory (category added Fall 2012) Language or circumstances where women are referred to or treated in a negative and demeaning manner.

Other content matters such as torture, suicide or rape will be noted, with details revealed only as necessary in the review itself.

The term "throughout" added to any of the above means it happens many times throughout the show.

Reviewing Policy

I receive free seats to Broadway and Off-Broadway shows made available to all voting members of the Outer Critics Circle and The Drama Desk, the two professional critics organizations with journalists covering NY theater. Journalistically, I provide an unbiased review and am under no obligation to make positive statements. Sometimes shows do not make tickets available to reviewers. If these are shows my readers want to know about (I review all Broadway shows and pertinent Off-Broadway shows), I will purchase a ticket. If a personal friend is involved in a production, I'll let you know, but it won't influence a review. If I feel there is a conflict, I won't review their portion of the production.

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