I’m sure it will come as no surprise if we tell you that the 24th season of The Simpsons will not stand the test of time. In fact, if Anne Washburn’s Mr. Burns, A Post-Electric Play, is any indication, not much will be remembered beyond season six.
In her new play, which was staged last year in Washington by the Woolly Mammoth Theater Company and opened at Playwrights Horizons in New York City earlier this week, storytelling is paramount in our world – post-nuclear holocaust. So much so, that reenacting scenes from the long-running animated series, mostly classic episodes like Bart of Darkness and A Streetcar Named Marge, is not simply entertainment, but a means of survival and coping with the fears of a newer, darker world.
The play opens with a group of friends around a campfire recalling lines from the classic Simpsons episode “Cape Feare,” in which Sideshow Bob gets out of prison and begins stalking the Simpson family with the intent to murder Bart. The episode is a parody of the 1991 Robert DeNiro thriller, Cape Fear, which is itself a remake of a 1962 film. Early in the play, these details are mentioned by the characters, but the Simpsons episode then takes on a life of its own and adopts mythic qualities that transform it into a theatrical tragedy rivaling the work of Hesiod or Euripides.