Sunday, July 24, 2016

Hello, Heat Wave, My Old Friend.

It was too hot today for me to do much more than read, eventually giving that up to take a heat nap.

Ostensibly, it was for similar reasons that TheatreLAB lowered the thermostat in the Basement to frigid for tonight's performance of "Mr. Burns: A Post-Electric Play," but now that I've seen it, I'm more inclined to think they lowered the temperature so our brains wouldn't melt from seeing such a complicated and brilliant production.

Beginning with a group of survivors huddled around a campfire with tree branches overhead to simulate the forest that has become their home, the play's cast easily deserves a best ensemble award for making their interaction throughout the play feel as natural and spontaneous as the bonfire parties my next door millennial neighbors often host on Friday nights.

Except they're not dealing with nuclear meltdown.

There are three things you may want to know about the post-apocalyptic world portrayed in "Mr. Burns:" 

First, people are not competent and, second, gay men drink more Diet Coke than straight men. No big news there, right?

Last, and perhaps most importantly, when required to start from scratch, civilization will turn to the "The Simpsons" for a cultural touchstone, specifically, to the "Cape Fear" episode, in and of itself a fascinating choice. Even the Simpsons theme wove its way through the entire production in one form or another.

Wait, now that I think about it, there's a fourth. This is a play so full of ideas, its scope so wide, that you'll leave the theater craving a second viewing just to clarify everything further in your head. My companion likened it to Charlie Kauffman's "Synecdoche, New York" for how meta it was.

But it's also the time travel aspect - the play covers 80+ years of post-global disaster life - that had our heads spinning at both intermissions. Yes, two breaks, both to allow the entire room to be reconfigured so the audience would experience each act from a different perspective.

But it had better be a smart audience, I tell you what, because this is a play that expects you to not only have a passing knowledge of "The Simpsons" and the DeNiro remake of "Cape Fear," but also Gilbert and Sullivan, Top 40 hits (yes, that was a Britney song we heard), the darkest reaches of capitalism, ole bedroom eyes himself, Robert Mitchum, life post-grid and Greek choruses.

I got them all, yet both our brains were in overdrive by the time we walked out of the ice-cold Basement, wowed beyond belief, deep in discussion about what we'd just seen and already planning to see it again.

Good thinking, TheatreLAB, cooling our brains down before electrifying them. It's what Bart would have done.

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