Reviewed by Tracey Paleo, Gia On The Move
Hands down the best, 2nd-act dance choreography I’ve seen, to date, in L.A. Intimate Theater! Yes, Mr. Burns, a post-electric play, gets a huge notation right at the beginning for a so-exciting-I-didn’t-want-to-sit-in-my-seat, technically deft, showdown of style! Super accolades to choreographers Lauren Van Kurin and Erin Parks, and dance captain Dagney Kerr for one of the funniest, aggressively athletic performances by Sacred Fools Theatre Company (at least that I’ve ever seen). Every actor on stage knocked it out of the park!
I took my dad to this one. The guy who balks at the thought of being distracted from a crowded menu of Spaghetti Westerns, old Hollywood movie musicals and Sunday Football (thankfully it was Friday night!), i.e. theater’s toughest audience, otherwise known as the, I’d rather not go-crowd.
This time however, theater caught a break. He loved it. So did I.
Mr. Burns, a post electric play written by Anne Washburn, directed by Jamie Robledo, scored by Michael Friedman and lyrics by Anne Washburn, slightly winds at the pace of a flickering ember at the start of its 3-act, 3-spaces staging, but ends with an electrifying finish.
After the collapse of civilization, a group of survivors keep the spark of human spirit alive by telling stories around a campfire. As the years wear on, these stories expand into the realm of legend and myth.
What is an audience immersive gathering around a campfire, recanting an episode of the popular cartoon series, The Simpsons, quickly reveals itself as a survivalist aftermath. Everyone is on the run. And those people careful enough to move in secret, share lists of survivor names as they travel, in order to find friends or relatives. The action is primarily driven by actor Scott Golden who sets a college-kegging turned hair-trigger outlaw tone as soon as a stranger arrives in the middle of the night to seek shelter with the group. Gibson (Eric Curtis Johnson) shares his own shortlist of survivors he’s encountered from north of Boston, Massachusetts, where the fall-out has been particularly fierce.
The second act leads us through time 75 years later where, it is literally a dog-eat-dog, survival of the fittest and funniest. A traveling theater company is trading and selling phrases and lines of The Simpsons to perform for bread and existence. The competition to acquire these artifacts is dangerous. Everyone’s life is on the line.
The coup de gras is the final act, far in the future, where real history has been utterly replaced by the deified fiction of a complete Simpsons episode as truth, where Bart Simpson (Tracey A. Leigh) and the evil Mr. Burns (Eric Curtis Johnson) go head to head in a chilling, Godzilla vs MegaGodzilla-like battle. Weaving both Greek chorus and Commedia dell’arte into the modern comedy these two actors take over this production with unbelievable power, skill and ruthlessness. The depths to which respectively, Leigh, amplifies a painful melancholic gravitas and Curtis, a frightening barbaric violence, has to be experienced first-hand to understand the charged emotional grandeur.
Robledo has done so much more than justice to Washburn’s script. He has turned this into one of this company’s finer presentations and as marvelously close to the spirit of the Sacred Fools Theatre Company in the way only this group can present such material.
Very Highly Recommend
Written by Anne Washburn
Directed by Jamie Robledo
Featuring: Scott Golden, Heather Roberts, Tracey A. Leigh, Joe Hernandez-Kolski, Tegan Ashton Cohan, Eric Curtis Johnson, Dagney Kerr, Emily Clark
Produced for Sacred Fools by Brian W. Wallis
Music Director: Ryan Thomas Johnson
Set Designer: Joel Daavid
Lighting Designer: Matthew Richter
Costume Designer: Linda Muggeridge
Prop Designer: Brandon Clark
Photo (above): Eric Curtis Johnson in “Mr. Burns, a post-electric play.”
Photos by Jessica Sherman Photography
Mr. Burns, a post electric play is presented In Memoriam for composer and lyricist Michael Friedman (Score) September 24, 1975 – September 9, 2017, who passed just prior to the opening of Sacred Fools’ presentation at the age of 41 due to complications of HIV/AIDS.
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