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"MR. BURNS" IS BOTH HILARIOUS AND 
PROVOCATIVE
In the year 2025, cast members hit the gas straight for Oklahoma.

No one in the Historic Y theater just off North Fourth Avenue said anything, but the irony was palpable. As news reports from the real world poured in about the American/British/French bombing of Russia's staunch ally Syria, the Scoundrel and Scamp Theatre Company was presenting a play set in 2018 that begins with a nuclear attack on the United States that has obliterated the nation's electric power grid.

Playwright Anne Washburn has fearlessly imagined a satirical comedy response to a dystopian world where everything we value has changed, literally overnight. Yet, all the human survivors have the same short-sighted and often selfish personalities they had before the big one was dropped.

Recovery will not be easy. Washburn makes the situation manageable by keeping everything metaphorical. In Act One the people are lost. In the next act, set seven years later, the people are struggling to rebuild what they can remember. Then by the third act, set in 2100, the new world has the same heroes and villains as the old world – only with a twist.

Boasting all the eagerness of a new generation full of desire to do better, the S&S cast led by director Claire Marie Mannle has brought forth an astounding production of “Mr. Burns – A Post-Electric Play” that is both provocative and hilarious.

Post-electric” are the key words here as all knowledge stored electronically was instantly lost when the power grid collapsed.

Mr. Burns” refers to “The Simpsons” iconic TV series where Mr. Burns owns the Springfield Nuclear Power Plant.

As a dazed and numbed nation tries to figure out the most important ideas to remember and preserve, a random collection of seven survivors are camped around a fire in an old washtub on the S&S stage, trying to remember a specific classic “Simpsons” episode that satirized both movie versions of “Cape Fear,” plus a dash of “The Night of the Hunter” that also featured Robert Mitchum, this time as the criminal preacher who had “hate” tattooed on one fist and “love” tattooed on the other.

The play's structure lends itself to a variety of interpretations. Feel free to let your mind stretch out. There is an audience and cast discussion after every performance. See how your ideas stack up against the crowd.

A key element in the story is that all knowledge seems to have been lost. Social values are now taken from popular TV shows because that's what people remember most. Only, their memories are uneven. For example, when there are competing version of the same line Bart might say, who gets to decide which version to use? Probably the most powerful person in the room.

It's not exactly like editing the New Testament, but...maybe it is.

This is an ensemble performance from top to bottom, without any leading roles. Although, during the first act Adam Denoyer has a more prominent part and in Act Two Leah Taylor's scene nearly becomes a show-stopper.

Also cast are Gabriella De Brequet, Sean Patrick, Julia Balestracci, Lance Guzman and Jeanne Torres.

"Mr. Burns, a post-electric play" runs through April 22, with performances at 7:30 p.m. Thursdays-Saturdays, 2 p.m. Sundays, in the Historic Y, 738 N. Fifth Ave. Tickets are $28, with substantial discounts available. For details and reservations, 448-3300, or visit scoundrelandscamp.org












"PERFECT TIMING" A ROMANTIC FARCE FOR SPRINGTIME
photo by Jeffrey Snyder
Counting clockwise are Damian Garcia, Myani Watson, Joanne Mack Robinson, Michael F. Woodson and Michele Holland.

For fans of traditional farce (you know who you are) “Perfect Timing” by Kristi Kane, playing at the eastside Roadrunner Theatre, is a little different. For one thing instead of emphasizing slamming doors, there are ringing telephones (always at an awkward moment) to keep the tension rising.

And my favorite difference – several scenes with strings of puns that are great fun and often rather clever.

Perfect Timing” is set in a posh garden home in Knightsbridge, London, at an indeterminate time which feels very 1940s. That rude telephone has an old-fashioned ring to it and the women wear clothes with padded shoulders.

Women also have all the good lines. In one online review of a Los Angeles production, the reviewer referred to this comedy as “chick theater,” as in chick flick and chick lit.

Roadrunner newcomer Joanne Mack Robertson is excellent as the high-style Cornelia, an arts critic by profession who knows what she likes.

Michelle Holland is her equal as Vivianna, the best bud of Cornelia. Vivianna is the organized one who shares top billing and keeps Cornelia grounded.

But the lovely garden apartment does belong to Cornelia, giving her certain privileges as the merriment becomes madcap when hearts get misplaced along with many mistaken identities.

Manning up for their punch line roles just for being men are Michael F. Woodson as the internationally influential banker Alex Bradley, and the much younger Damian Garcia as the intuitive but uneducated artist Gerrard Castle.

Just to get things started, by the time “Perfect Timing” begins Alex has taken to staying overnight now and then with Cornelia. They are in that extended “How long are we going to stay engaged?” period because Alex just wants to feel absolutely certain.

Then Cornelia happens to meet Gerrard, the hot new artist and society darling. She is helplessly attracted to him, though she isn't about to give up Alex.

Being an incurable womanizer as well as an artist, Gerrard is happy to encourage Cornelia's philandering ideas.

Vivianna, meanwhile, gets preoccupied with helping Cornelia entice both men without making Gerrard and Alex suspicious of each other.

But that's just the Act One set-up. After intermission, Vivianna gets some action of her own and four additional actors pop in to truly complicate everything.

Chloe Loos as director sets a casual pace, giving the audience plenty of time to follow along. While the dialogue can seem a little racy at times, all the cast members maintain their cool and keep on going as if it is all very natural.

Perfect Timing” runs through April 29 with performances at 7 p.m. Fridays and Saturdays, 2 p.m. Sundays, in the Roadrunner Theatre, 8892 E. Tanque Verde Road. Tickets are $20, students and seniors $18, military $15. For details and reservations, roadrunnertheatrecompany.org