Combining post-apocalyptic themes with “The Simpsons,” Anne Washburn’s play “Mr. Burns” premiered in the Sharp Theater last Friday night. The show, labeled as a “post-electric” play, serves as Ramapo’s spring mainstage production. This production of “Mr. Burns” is directed by Pirronne Yousefzadeh and choreographed by Amanda Phelan.
“This process was unlike any other I've ever been a part of,” said senior Nick D’Ambrosia, who played the role of Matt. “When rehearsing other shows, there's usually some point of reference, be it other productions or a cast recording, but with Mr. Burns, there's very little out there in the way of reference material. We had a set script and score to follow, but everything beyond that was on us, which is really a wonderful thing, coming together with a group of friends and collaborators to create.”
D’Ambrosia is correct in stating that the play has not been frequently produced. It originally premiered in 2012 by the Wooly Mammoth Theater Company in Washington D.C. and had a run in New York with Playwrights Horizons.
“‘Mr. Burns’ is so challenging and different for a ton of reasons. It was difficult because we had to put ourselves in the position of people who no longer have electricity and are trying to find ways to survive. Our director was constantly reminding us the stakes of our actions,” senior Julie Roccanova, who played Maria, said.
These stakes evolve as the show progresses. During the first act, a group of survivors including Matt, Jenny, played by Dareline Estrella, Sam, played by Jacob Haury, Maria and Colleen, played by Deanna Venezio, sit around a fire and try to recall the “Cape Feare” episode of “The Simpsons” in great detail. They are interrupted when Gibson, a vagabond, played by Sean Dabney, comes along and eventually assists the group in finishing the episode.
The second act, which takes place seven years later, features the same group with the addition of Quincy, played by Amber Walker. They are still telling the story of the “Cape Feare” episode, but they have now turned it into a production. The theatre troupe, however, has changed the story and added a bit of their own flair, including commercials and even a musical number.
“Our choreographer asked us each to send her our favorite music videos before the first rehearsal, and we ended up taking inspiration from some of the videos when devising the choreography for the second act pop song medley, just as the characters would have been pulling from their memory banks when choreographing a number like that,” D’Ambrosia said, referring to the musical number.
The third act stands out from the rest of the show. Taking place 75 years after the second act, the third act is a completely different retelling of the “Cape Feare” episode, mixing the post-apocalyptic themes with themes of the episode of “The Simpsons” to the point where the original is unrecognizable. This act of the play is performed entirely in song with the actors dressing as Simpsons characters.
“It was different from any other show I've done here because it really feels like performing three different shows. The tone of each act is so different from the last and it's been so fun to take on this challenge each night,” said Roccanova.
Students interested in seeing Ramapo’s production of Mr. Burns have three more opportunities. Mr. Burns will run Thursday, Friday and Saturday night at 8:00 p.m.