“The Simpsons” is coming to Loyola in an unconventional way.
The Department of Fine and Performing Arts will be performing the eclectic “Mr. Burns, a Post-Electric Play,” for its second production of the semester.
Written by Anne Washburn, the play premiered in 2012 and follows a group of apocalypse survivors as they create a new mythology formed around a “Simpsons” episode they’ve all seen before. With no electricity and their world decimated, the survivors have nothing else to hold onto or bond over except their memories of pop culture.
Mark Lococo, the director of the play and Loyola’s director of theatre since 2007, said he has put countless hours of work into making this production run smoothly. He was part of the committee who chose “Mr. Burns” as the theatre company’s October play.
“It’s very popular right now across the country, as a new play goes,” Lococo said. “It’s particularly interesting on a college campus because it’s a mixed bag of all kind of stuff, like realism, mythology and music.”
The play has a combination of comedic and dark themes evident within its promotional poster. The poster features stylized images of iconic “Simpsons” characters, with Marge as the focus, only her famous tower of blue hair is drawn as a mushroom cloud.
Senior theatre major Elijah Cox is the assistant director of the play and has been involved in many Loyola theatre productions during his college career. None of them, he said, were like “Mr. Burns.”
“There are parts of it that are very funny, but there are parts that are very frightening,” Cox said. “I think one of the juggling acts that we have to do is balancing this funny premise with some really frightening moments that I think are going to surprise people.”
“Mr. Burns” places a heavy emphasis on the importance of pop culture and storytelling in our society. It makes the audience think about life after an apocalyptic nuclear fallout and raises questions about which pieces of pre-apocalypse life are worth preserving.
The play contains dismal campfire conversations, sign language, a pop song medley and a “Simpsons”-inspired religious ritual within its three acts, making it a production unlike anything else that has come to Loyola’s Newhart Theatre.
To capture the unique mood of the play, the atmosphere in the theatre has to be just right.
“We have three very elaborate, completely different scenic conceptions,” Lococo said. “It starts off very dark and quiet with no music and evolves from there.”
It doesn’t stay dreary and mysterious for long, according to Taylor Lach, a senior theatre major and costume seamstress at Loyola who has a leading role in the play.
“There’s a stained glass window of ‘The Simpsons’ [in one scene],” Lach said, laughing. “Did you ever think that would be made?”
The characters in the production go through some incredible struggles, and playing them onstage is no easy feat. Lach takes on the role of Jenny, an anxious survivor who must transcribe every line of the “Simpsons” episode “Cape Feare” that other survivors can recall. For her, acting in “Mr. Burns” has been transformative.
“I learned so much,” Lach said. “This has been a real acting exercise in being versatile in a short amount of time. You have to be always on your toes, ready to change from a really heartfelt monologue to singing ‘Toxic’ by Britney Spears.”
From elaborate costumes to an intriguing storyline, “Mr. Burns” has plenty of features to draw in curious audiences. Most importantly, it has an insightful human element which comes across in unexpected ways.
“I think people should come see this play because I think it says a lot about how we build stories and relate to each other as people,” Cox said. “In every culture … people tell stories. And I don’t think we realize it’s a very communal act, sitting around the TV and watching something like ‘The Simpsons.’ I think this play brings that to the forefront.”
“Mr. Burns, a Post-Electric Play” will run from Oct. 19-29 in the Newhart Family Theatre on the second floor of Mundelein. It will be performed Thursday-Saturday at 7:30 p.m. and Sunday at 2 p.m. Tickets range from $6-$20. To purchase tickets, visit artsevents.luc.edu.